tv Congress Political Parties Polarization CSPAN July 18, 2020 10:45am-11:46am EDT
on american history tv. >> the national constitution center in hill -- and philadelphia hosted a discussion on congress, political parties and polarization from the time of america's founding through the civil war to today. speakers include joanne freeman and political scientist norman orenstein. this event took place online due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the national constitution center provided the video. jeffrey: now it is a great honor to introduce our guests. what an amazing panel. america's most distinguished historians and scholars of congress to help us understand our current vexations. edward ayres is president emeritus of humanities at the university of richmond. he is the author of many books on the civil war and reconstruction, including, i will highlight one of his many
books, hisng forthcoming book is "southern journey." welcome, it is an honor to have you. edward: my pleasure, thank you. jeffrey: joanne freeman is a class of 1954 professor of american history and american studies at yale university, where she specializes in the politics and political culture of the revolutionary and early national periods. she is a cohost with edward ayres of a popular history podcast "backstory." it is great to unite these co-podcasters together. and she is the author of many books as well, including "the pathbreaking." as well as "field of blood."
joanne, it is such an honor to have you with us. joanne: thanks for having me. jeffrey: norman ornstein studies politics, elections, and the u.s. congress. his books include "one nation after trump, a guide for the perplexed, the disillusioned, the desperate, and not yet departed." and there are other titles, the next one, we did at the constitution center. and it depressed us even before we begin the program. "it is even worse than it looks, how the american constitutional system collided with extremism," and, relevant for tonight, "the broken branch, how congress is failing america and how to get it back on track." he is a friend of the center and appears frequently on our programs. norm, it is wonderful to have you back. norman: always a pleasure. jeffrey: let us jump right into the history of the violence that consumed the nation in general and congress in particular in
the years leading up to the civil war. joanne, we will begin with you because your book, "field of blood," describes it vividly and the statistics you talk about are so striking. between 1830 and 1860, you write, there were more than 70 violent incidents between congressmen in the house and senate chambers or in a nearby streets and dueling grounds. and it was not confined to congress. there were 109 riots nationwide. let me ask it this way, is it true that there was more violence then in congress in particular, but also the nation in general than there is now? why was it and give us a sense of how violent congress was. joanne: sure. to answer your question first, this is going to be an obvious thing to say, but congress is a representative institution. so it very much does reflect the
ethos of the time, and the fact of the matter is in the first part of the 19th century and even the second half of the 19th century were very violent. so some of the violence you see in congress is representative of that moment. but what i was interested in and what drew my attention was the amount of it and dynamic of it. you were discussing the years leading up to the civil war and it is worth noting that the violence, or at least the extreme violence begins in the 1830's. it is not a constant wave, it sort of comes and goes, that it is the 30's, 40's and 50's that see these incidents. what is interesting, and what is totally logical, if you track who is fighting whom, initially you see one party fighting another and then over time, you see north versus south and slavery is at the center of the fighting. what struck me as interesting most of all and what shows
violence as a tool in antebellum congress, is southerners knew that to a certain degree they had an advantage because they were willing to duel and were more willing to engage in hand-to-hand combat than some of the northerners. they used that advantage on the floor. they used it as a tool of debate and they would deliberately intimidate and threaten northern congressmen, and some of them would silence themselves or sit down or not stand up rather than risk the threat or being humiliated in front of the public by being threatened and having to back down. violence was shocking all by itself, but what is particularly interesting is it was a deliberate pool of debate. over time, what happens is by the 1850's, mid-1850's, some northerners decided it would be their tool, too. jeffrey: that is such a powerful turn in the book when you
describe how the decision of northerners to challenge southerners to duel and it decreased the violence, and you quote from that remarkably moving letter that you said moved you to tears, when three representatives all pledged to challenge future duelers to fight, it became known that northern senators were ready to fight. i have to say finally that we have this wonderful new exhibit on the civil war and reconstruction. we have thaddeus stevens' cane, and when i show the cane and tell the charles sumner story, i quote your book on how some people would run for congress during that. -- during that period on the grounds that my left hook is better and i will beat him up. incredibly powerful.
norman, it is often said or at least it has been said by norbert mccarthy from princeton, that we are more polarized today than at any time since the civil war. you are such an expert at party systems. can you explain what it was about the political parties right before the civil war that led us to be so polarized then? norman: you go back through history and you see echoes of so many of the divisions that are familiar to people today. if you look at the period leading up to the civil war and look at the party system, it was very much in flux. you had a whig party that ultimately was transformed into the modern republican party. along the way, we had a know nothing party that was virulently anti-immigration. the ire and the focus was on
catholics, on some elements of northern europeans in part. we actually had a president elected on the know nothing ticket. ultimately, it became though two -- the two parties we know today, or at least that we think we know today, democrats and republicans. and of course, we have that overarching issue of race and slavery. and the party stuck with that. for a while, the democratic party had a strong anti-slavery lean. we had others, copperheads, who leaned another way. but of course, it struck down into a republican with abraham lincoln, the president, who became the force in the republican party against slavery. ed will talk about how things changed in the aftermath of the assassination of lincoln and
what changed with the reconstruction period. all of those things, which were life-and-death issues to so many, really created a level of polarization in society. it broke down along regional lines, and those regional divisions continue to persist, but not in the same way as the parties changed and the democratic party, which became a more dominant party many decades later, had a merger of southern and northern democrats. but them's the -- but those deep divisions was there, the polarization of society and the parties. mccarthy is right that what we are seeing now is something far more distinct than what we have seen in any other period for over 100 years. jeffrey: that is fascinating. you are teaching that the party system during the civil war
mirrored the party system paired just as -- system. it reinforced joanne's point that the violence in congress mirrored the violence in society. your book argues powerfully that every state, except those who would advance freedom, found themselves challenged and sometimes defeated. as this history shows, black freedom advanced faster than its champions dreamed possible precisely because the opponents of freedom proved powerful and aggressive. tell us about how it was that with each victory of the armies of the south provoked northern support for abolitionists, and as norman invited, if you could take us from the post-civil war period through reconstruction and tell us about how the party system realigned and the country became less polarized even as support for reconstruction was ultimately abandoned. edward: as norman was saying, the polarization between the democrats and republicans during the civil war, it is a
fundamental fact that people tend to forget. people would say the democrats lost, they only had 47% of the vote. i think we've seen in our own time, the other half of the electorate doesn't go away when they lose. in 1864, 10,000 votes in different districts, you will see if that number sounds familiar, the election went to the democrats in 1864 after the suffering of the civil war. we forget that. had some battles gone differently, abraham lincoln might not have been reelected. northern democrats were as racist as white southerners. they hated everything the republicans were doing. the war ends. the white south said ok, we have lost, but meantime, lincoln's election, andrew johnson becomes president, he seems to cut some slack for the white south. they go great, let's push for everything we can get, let's reinstitute as much slavery as
possible. before republicans come back into congress. right now, there is a -- president running everything. this sounds familiar, too, right? let's do what we can with this president. when republicans come back in after riots in new orleans and memphis and widespread violence against black people across the south, republicans say we cannot have lost 350,000 men for this. we must restore the purpose of the war. because the white south was running roughshod. the white south just keeps pushing and pushing and northern republicans essay ok, it is -- republicans say ok, it is going to take an amendment to the constitution that you have to support. you will have to allow black men to vote and be delegates. you have to rewrite the constitution before you come
back because you have shown us you are not sorry at all. you admit you were defeated but you do not admit you were wrong. you have congressional commissions who come out and talk to people across the south, and what they were looking for was rebelism. the spirit that even though lay -- they lost, they are still the rebels. the patterns we have seen are -- that are still paying out today are there. as a result, you would not have had the 14th amendment if the republicans had not felt that if they did not revise the fundamental law of the land, the democrats of the north would have joined with the white southerners. that's what i mean. and the 15th amendment, to
really make sure that you can't take away the vote. reconstruction begins ending almost as soon as it begins. in virginia, it is over by 1870. textbooks put the number and 1870. reconstruction starts in 1871, 1872, and is drenched in violence. the white south brings on the fundamental change in laws recognizing that if you were a native born american, you have fundamental rights. after reconstruction comes to an end, united states settled into a pattern for a long time. very closely contested election with the south -- especially around the turn-of-the-century, and north and the west
republican. those are the most contested, finely calibrated elections in american history. all during the period of when people say nothing is happening. a few votes could change the outcome. it is a fundamental restructuring. but the commonality, from what joanne, norman and i are saying, polarization finds a winner take all, two parties, us and them, a shifting, but there is a polarizing impulse in american political culture. jeffrey: so interesting. thank you for all of that. what an important point that it was the fear of losing the gains of the civil war that led to the 14th amendment. we tell the story of the civil war exhibit about the debate, stevens saying we will have the majority forever and bingham saying we might lose it and we need to put it in the constitution. you described how that was a pattern for so many of the gains of reconstruction. that warning that the losers might not go away gracefully is
prescient and sobering for today. joanne, we have a bunch of questions from our friends. howard green says, when northerners are willing to fight back and southerners stop challenging, is that like facing up to a bully? we also have a question about whether any members of congress were trying to reach across the aisle during this time, and a question about whether in the prewar era, was slavery and an -- an unspoken catalyst? you can respond to any of those that strike you as provocative. joanne: sure. the first question about the northerners and southerners, i would say the southerners don't stop fighting.
they are just thrown off their feet in a sense because the northerners have been caving in all along and suddenly northerners were fighting back. the word bully asked in the question is right on target. that is the word people used at the time for the people provoking these fights. bully brooks, preston brooks, that was his nickname. that is a word that is applied to people throughout this period. there was a sense that these people before the second half of the 1850's, the southerners were picking on people who could be bullied because they did not fight back in the same way. what then happens is these northerners come and the northern congressman were campaigning on the idea that they would fight the slave power. there was a reality to that in congress that they meant it. some of them came with weapons and literally made it clear. the document you mentioned, but i will admit made me kind of teary, these three northerners
explain why they will dual from now on. the part that captured me was at the end, after describing with all of this emotion, they say we are putting this down on paper so that future generations will understand how hard it was to fight slavery on the floor of congress. so they make clear precisely what i'm trying to describe in the book. it is bullying, but what happens when you are being bullied? i suppose there is a simple answer, but if you stand up to a bully, sometimes it is useful to do. i will also mention whether or not people were reaching across the aisle. there were. after a certain amount of time, that became very hard to do. you can see the mere hint at a certain point in the 1850's, that someone would reach across the aisle to someone else sometimes met by mockery, or even they will joke, but the joke will be yeah, you do that.
one congressman says to another, you do that and you better tell your kids to put their sunday best on because they will never see you again. there were some people trying. strikingly to me, in the handful of years before the civil war, people were reaching across the aisle off the floor. they could not do it in the public eye, so they tried to do it in a separate space but by that point, those were not issues that could be compromised. jeffrey: a reminder that compromises are only possible sometimes in private. the constitutional convention was in secret and you could forge the compromises. but when everything is tweeted in real-time or even when the press was watching during the civil war, it is difficult. completely fascinating. norman, everyone wants to talk about the president, and we have to learn our history at the same time. that's why i am not jumping right into modern questions.
many of our friends are asking why isn't congress standing up to the president today? bill asks, how can congress tolerate the refusal of president trump's personnel to receive subpoenas to testify before committees? should this behavior immediately have been punished with fines or imprisonment? we also have the question, how can congress regain its oversight of the executive branch? and sarah cunningham our first question, why is congress, especially the senate, so willing to bow to the executive? norman, in the process of answering those very valid questions, do give us some historical context. during the civil war, it seemed
congress was more willing to stand up to the president, and they passed the civil rights act over the republican president's veto, and indeed impeached him because of its distaste for his policies. compare congress being willing to stand up to the president then and now. norman: i will digress a little bit because i want to bring in more history. one thing i would say to set that context, there is a wonderful book by a historian called "the first congress," and it did not consist of towering figures except for a james madison here and there. there were a lot of pretty mediocre people. but they saw that the institution meant something and had respect and they did some remarkable things, including the bill of rights, of course. because they had institutional loyalty. in the sense that if the constitution was going to work, they better get it going. but to step back a little bit,
the constitution was set up through those compromises to give an inordinate amount of power to the south. they knew it. it wasn't just the way they set up the so-called 3/5 compromise. the electoral college, the nature of the house of representatives gave them a lot of clout, and because of the determination to maintain slavery and the aftermath, reconstruction to make sure that they could recapture their power through voter suppression and the use of race. i would remind you of something most people don't realize, the house started with 65 members. it was capped in 1929 at 435. it did not change in size after the 1910 census because the southerners saw that if they kept responding to the population by adding members, it would dilute their power and
give more power to african-americans who were emerging. so they figured out how to keep the size at 435 and use their power of redistricting and apportionment, use their ability to maintain control to basically keep blacks from having any role, significant role in the south, and keep the laws of such that there would not be significant civil rights, which we did not get until the 1960's. there is a lot of history we have to keep in mind, and we also have to keep in mind that it was those southern democrats from the 1930's all the way through, really, a long period of time, 40 consecutive years of power in the house of representatives for democrats, where they could build a compromise coalition against northern democrats that maintained voter suppression and their role in the south while giving democrats power. in the aftermath of that, as the
south changed and regions began to change, it was the republicans who moved in, took over from southern democrats, and began to court voters in a way that also was focused around race and suppressing the power of race. i want to get all of that on the table. what i would say about the questions that were asked directly is we have gone from polarization to tribalism. that began, i would say, much more with newt gingrich and his arrival in congress in 1978, and a change in our politics and in particular, a change in the republican party that i would say bluntly is more like a cult now than a traditional political party. what the framers built in from the beginning, a recognition that you could end up with a president who would not behave
in a fashion that puts the entire country first. who might look out for his own economic interest or his family's economic interest, or subordinate the interest of the country to foreign powers, sometimes for economic gain. they built in safeguards. the electoral college was one, but prime among them was the first branch, which because it was elected independently and not beholden to a president because of a belief that the members would have what political scientists have called institutional patriotism, would provide checks and balances. if you have a party that subordinates its own institutional interests because of a corrupt president or a cult, you lose that fundamental check. if another one of those checks, the independent judiciary, is cast to the side with a desire to fill it with people who also
will have loyalties that don't match what we believe should be an independent judiciary, you lose many of those checks and balances. we have lost a large number of them now. the role of the senate to use the power of confirmation of judges and executive officials, of congress to use the power of the purse to put some boundaries around a presidency or bad behaviors by members of the executive branch. when those begin to shred, you lose control of the system and i believe that's what we have had the last several years and i don't believe the framers would view it in a positive light. jeffrey: very interesting. some powerful statements. following up on what you said, eileen says, define the difference between polarization and tribalism? i heard norm saying it was the difference between a clash of ideas, which we saw during the civil war, and a clash of
partisanship, which we see today. today, people are unwilling to buck their party in a way they weren't during the civil war, when congress took its institutional role more seriously even when it meant disagreeing with a president of the same party. norman: just very quickly, if you viewed the other party as worthy people who are trying to solve problems but just have misguided ideas, you can agree on what the problems are and then work through compromises and the political process, where you can at least achieve some accomplishments along the way. if you begin to believe that the other party is a group of evil people trying to destroy your way of life, preventing them from gaining power, keeping them down, becomes the central goal. you will swallow hard and accept a number of things that otherwise would be unacceptable to you. that's where we are now and i believe that is the fundamental difference. jeffrey: that is amazing.
i have to ask whether you take norm's comment that people are less willing to recognize people from the other party as people of good faith less than at the civil war, which is an amazing statement. and i want to tell our friends watching about the powerful website that you helped to establish electing the house of representatives, where you seek to recapture the role of congress as an equal branch of governing side-by-side with the presidency. you have really granular data about how landslide presidential wins failed to produce policy victories and you need congressional and presidential majorities to coincide to get sweeping legislative reforms. edward: yeah, the fact is that as historians looking over long periods of time, we are good at
seeing how things could have turned out, but it's always could have. if you pull the camera back, you see the broad patterns. the democrats maintained control of the house from 1954 through 1994. think about all of the things happening in america in those years, and yet the stability of partisanship. that is something to think about. we don't want to glorify that because in many ways, that control was based on the sovereign south and its own kind of tribalism. when you have just white men disagreeing with other white men, they can feel a solidarity. part of what we are seeing now is the political system that encompasses more americans which is the way things should be. if you think about stability in
the house of representatives for decade after decade, we want to point out that that was kind of a deal in which the white south would get what it wanted, being left alone with segregation for as long as possible, and at the same time, it would work with fdr. you would have elaborate deals in which different constituencies were served. i agree with what norman is saying, that the norms have fallen apart. the fact is, we don't want to forget that all american politics has been built on tribal identity. it was racial for most of american history and made invisible by disenfranchisement and suppression of voting. so we are seeing that.
the map allows us to see how every congressional district in the u.s. voted from 1840 through the present and you can see which ones flipped. i come from a strange one, the only congressional district in the south that has voted republican since the civil war. people look at this later, not now, in the corner of tennessee there is one red area -- i went to andrew johnson elementary school there. in my lifetime, to go from being republican in the 1950's in the south and what being republican today means is entirely different. that's another thing that is confusing. that this map helps to understand. you will see people today attacking democrats who want to support getting rid of confederate monuments because all of those guys were democrats back in the day. they were big hypocrites.
but being a democrat in the 1850's and what being a democrat today means were entirely different things. i think being able to see broad shifts and a great stability. i don't know if that gives us confidence that there will be stabilization. i think what it allows us to see is after the great transition of the south from democrat to republican, the system with newt gingrich coming in, there is kind of an equilibrium through the political system that has many origins in the social system. jeffrey: fascinating. we will talk about some of those causes. donna asks, where's the website? we just posted it. explore the link on the website, but not now, no surfing during class. afterward. it is really illuminating to dig into a particular election and learn about it.
joanne, one thing you raised in the civil war era and is now relevant today to polarization is technology and some have attributed to our current polarization to a world that was recently argued that people are more likely to play to the base on twitter than to serve institutional interests of the white house, presidency or even the media. talk about the role of technology in polarization throughout history, especially beginning in the civil war period, and what we can learn about it. joanne: sure. the moment i find myself taking about very often these days is the the telegraph, the rise of the telegraph as a form of technology. before the telegraph, there was a certain amount of wiggle room in congress. if you said something you are sorry you said or did something you were sorry you did, you could rush over to the newspaper office or reporter and change what you said a little bit.
there was wiggle room. it was easier to keep things away from the public eye, a more limited number of reporters in washington. the telegraph fundamentally changed everything. it takes away the wiggle room. 45 minutes and everybody knows about something. all of a sudden there are all of these reporters from washington and all over the nation who can travel that distance, stay there and telegraph back home where they are seeing. congress loses control of the spin. if you think about congress, ideally speaking, is supposed to be an ongoing conversation between the public and the representatives in one way or another. the public says what they want, representatives respond in a way, if it is an election, it gets adjusted. technology changes that conversation. there are moments i think, and right now we are in the social
media pseudo-equivalent of the technology age, where no one quite understands the absolute give-and-take of that form of technology and everyone is trying to master it and manipulate it and take advantage of it, and every now and again, something happens and no one expected that to happen. if the telegraph removed the wiggle room, imagine now if someone says something goofy at a private dinner and someone has their phone and tapes it and then tweets or puts it on facebook, the entire world hears it. that is a generation that lose control of the conversation to a certain degree. now they are doing that at hyperspeed. we are at this moment where the conversation has changed fundamentally at a time when it is highly polarized and everyone is othering everyone else. i am an american and i represent america, and you are evil others who cannot be dealt with.
that is a dangerous time to be in this time of hyperspeed. it is made worse by the fact that we have the first president who is a tweeting president if you think back just a few years ago, people were trying to figure out what that meant, how do you take a tweet, is it formal, is it not formal? it is kinda mind-boggling and i think we take it for granted the degree to which technology can fundamentally scramble a workings of democracy. i think that's some of what we are feeling our way through right now. jeffrey: technology can scramble the work of democracy, that's a good way to describe it. we are feeling our way through it in a dramatic way. norm, how did we obviate some of the polarizations the last time around?
pressures with technology and a fraying party system but nevertheless, we evolved to the relative stability of the postwar period. what can the lessons of that reconstruction of the deliberate madisonian model, what does it tell us about how to get out of the current situation? norman: it will not be easy to get out of it. listening to joanne, there is a little book called "the victorian internet," which is a wonderful description of how the ,elegraph transformed the world and a lot of people thought it was wonderful that we could communicate face-to-face and wars would end and lots would change for the better. what we see now is things can change for the better but they can also very much change for the worst and you can enhance tribalism and division through that medium. but i would say, you know, when
we had parties that were broader, which is what we had really from the 1930's on, and to some degree before as well. when you had in the republican party, we used to call them, when i first got to washington in 1969, we called the southern democrats bull weevils for the insect in the south. we had a moderate republicans from the northeast, the new england region. a lot of them anchoring the west coast, which was a republican then, backbend, -- back washington, oregon and california was a republican region and we called them gypsy moths, for the bugs that infect hardwood trees. we had this grand sorting and our parties polarized ideologically, and created a real dilemma. we had leaders in an era that
did not have the populist surges until the late 1980's, early 1990's, where media, new media, and c-span, for example, could exacerbate some of those divisions. but we had leaders who understood larger obligations. one of the things i would say is we begin to talk about, or as we have been talking about race as a dividing issue, we would not have had those dramatic civil rights bills, 1957, 1964, 1965, without republicans being decisive factors. it was edward dirksen in the was bill mccullough from ohio in the house, others in the senate, who helped to make sure you could overcome the southern democratic opposition to those things. as we began to see changes that polarize us further, the opportunity was there, exacerbated by technological change.
tribal media emerging, talk radio and cable news, with leaders who found they could gain power and advancement by adding to this tribalism. the business models would have us careen out of control. without major changes in media, it will be hard to bring about. what i believe has happened now is we have a republican party that i think is going to have to go through at least three elections in a row with losses not just in 2020 but 2022 again, to give traction back to what are conservative people but problem-solving and not willing to use divisive things like race and immigration the way they have been used in the past to begin to right the ship and move us in a different direction. but it will not come easily or
quickly. we have to brace ourselves for what will be an extended period of real challenges trying to solve the major problems we have -- economic, racial and otherwise. jeffrey: thank you for that sobering thought. norman: have a nice night. [laughter] jeffrey: come up with another book title. absolutely. i'm sure it will be. we are at the solutions part of the discussion. several of our friends in the audience are asking, how big of a crisis is this and do you see a path to fix the problems of congress, gerrymandered districts, voter suppression? norm just suggested you need a total re-conception in the way the parties relate to the media to get them to be able to liberate again. -- to begin deliberating again.
your thoughts on solutions, and i have to ask them it is such a great shout out to your teaching abilities, williams says ed was my favorite professor at the university of virginia so you have to answer my question. hasn't congress created an -- given up its authority and created an imperial presidency that they have been complaining about? edward: thank you. i feel it is important to think about what is happening right now outside of the political system that is going to have profound effects on the political system. we, including my self, have referred to southerners as if they were white. black southerners have moved politics all the way from reconstruction. there is no 14th amendment. if african-american are not making it clear that they are willing to risk their lives to vote. unless the testimony from the south on these telegraphs is
that these people held in slavery for almost 200 years cannot wait to get into schools, to learn to read and write, to exercise. reconstruction is not just republicans in the north. it is black people in the south declaring their lives on the line to show what they would do with american freedom. then you take the people with the least power in american society, poor african-american southerners, after 100 years of disenfranchisement and segregation, they lead great moral revolution of the u.s. and voting rights act and civil rights act that follow. that will not happen if they are not in the streets. today, black lives matter is also showing look, you are all tied up worrying about tweets and meantime we are dying. things are going to have to change. i think a more optimistic
through line is the people who have been most victimized by the american political system have also been the people best at articulating american ideals. it is hard to know -- who would've thought, thinking about all of this history, who would've thought two or three years ago that most americans would have supported weeks long protests against the police? and it is the way it was done and the voice people are using. the only lesson i've been able to discover is nobody had any idea what would happen. it is one surprise after another. we have gone through this terrible period of dismay. we may be seeing the sprouts of a new era coming up. before the nice words for my friend, that's what i was going to say.
that we don't want to forget that along with every effort to disempower people, they have taken it upon themselves to find power in whatever way they can, and right now it is to remove the symbols of the order that had held them down for so long. there is reason to believe that there are punitive powers in american democracy at work even now. because, do you remember what the question was? jeffrey: it was a great answer. he was asking, why doesn't congress stand up for itself? i think you have given good reasons why. edward: i think when people know that voters have their backs, they will. people are developing more courage when they know they are speaking for a majority of people who want justice. i think you will see a new progressive era that will be
coming very soon and will be sustained for a long time by young people. i think looking at cycles, there is reason to believe that some of the things we have been worried about may have a chance to heal themselves. we will see. jeffrey: thank you for all of that. i have so many questions and i know you want to respond -- we cannot predict history that we -- but we can, as you have argued powerfully, all of you have, learn from that and contextualized. i have to ask you, things seem less violent today than they were during the time of the civil war, to put it mildly. the protests have been by and large peaceful and people are not beating themselves up in congress. why is it that things are less violent now and is that true? and i will put on the table this
big theme that susan coleman raises in which you introduced the drive to transparency, televising committee hearings and even conviction seems to get in the way of filmmaking. -- in the way of dealmaking. is there such a thing as too much transparency? if that's true, might the first amendment prohibit any regulation of media technologies that would allow the kind of moderation and compromise that madison expected? joanne: ok. jeffrey: there is a lot there. joanne: there is a lot there. i might have to ask you to remind me. the beginning one i know is it is less violent now and why is it less violent now? part of it is that the united states in 2020 is not the united states in 1855 when during an election, you routinely had people killed at polling places. there was an incident in washington in which a canon was shot at immigrants at a polling place.
there was a level of routine violence that was very different. in part, we are in a different moment. we are seeing i think more violence and threatening behavior than typically we might expect to see. i think that's part of what people are responding to. i think some of it is being encouraged and that is why it is there. but in one way or another, i think yes, we are less violent, but we are seeing a lot of extreme language and extreme behaviors that go beyond where i think we would be comfortable with under normal circumstances. as far as transparency goes, that is the eternal problem. transparency seemingly on the surface is good, we can all see what is happening. but then just as you suggested, and as my book discusses, when things happen in front of the public eye, that complicates them enormously.
how do you balance the need to work behind the scenes and then bring it forward to present it in a way so that the public is responsible? i don't have an answer for that, i just think that's one of the fundamental questions of balance in politics generally but particularly in congress, which is so bound up with public opinion. you asked a second question i think, which i have now forgotten. do you remember it? if not, i will go back to what i wanted to say before. i wanted to pull together what norman had said. jeffrey: pull away, and i think this is the last round, so closing thoughts as well. joanne: ok. norm was talking about that we are at this moment where many bad things have happened and might happen and to find our way out of them will take a lot of time and work.
ed was talking about the possible blooming of new kinds of progressive change. i suppose the way i think about this is during extreme intense change and unstable behavior, as ed said, we have no idea what will happen. we don't know how this will go down. we don't know if we are circling the drain or if it will be ok. i don't think we can assume either one, but what that means is as unstable as things feel now, there is room for change. what matters now is what we do with this moment. how we respond to what is going on now, how we realize the fact that what is happening now, things are changing. we don't know what is going to happen. but there is room for growth in addition to collapse. i suppose the way i join them together is just to encourage
people to realize that it is vitally important the people think about this moment and its importance. let their thoughts be known. some of what we are seeing is a great sign of that. but it is important for people to realize that they can help bring change and things are not absolutely over with. jeffrey: a wonderfully important note. all is changed, it is a metamorphosis and people can influence it as you said it so powerfully. thank you for bringing things together so well. norm, your closing thoughts, i will not presume to shape them. what would you like our friends to leave from this discussion? norman: a couple of things. one is that we can do some things structurally, difficult as they may be. i was part of an american academy of arts and sciences
commission on the common good, and we had a whole list of things we could do. that includes enlarging the house of representatives, altering the electoral college, bringing us the form of the akin to the australian system mandatory attendance at the pools and other changes. there are things that could be done to improve the process, elections and improve institutions. i also leave you with another challenge we have. i agree with ed that we have so many positive things happening now, including a wider awakening among white americans that have been ignored for so long. that minneapolis and others have set out. that black lives matter is a meaningful phrase, not something to push to the side or ignore. i think the immigration struggles have taken us back to understanding what it means to have a larger, better society.
but the institutions that were built by the framers are going to be more distorted as time passes. it has nothing to do with donald trump. by 2040, 70% of americans will live in 15 of 50 states. 50% of americans in 8 states. that means the electoral college will have more instances, if we keep it, where the winner of the popular vote loses the presidency. it means 30% of the americans who do not reflect the economic dynamism will elect 70 of 100 senators. we know that natural residential patterns as well as the way in which we do districts, and the supreme court basically brushed aside doing anything about partisan gerrymandering, and it will distort the house even further. what voters want will not be reflected and the courts will take us further and further away from popular will, whatever it is, with those elections. we are going to have some work
to do to prevent a crisis of legitimacy in the system that goes beyond some of these issues we have talked about, and even transcends some of these deeper divisions along racial and ethnic and regional lines. jeffrey: thank you for that. and for sobering us in such a powerful way. ed, the last word is for you. edward: let the civil war emancipation remind us that things far worse than we can imagine can happen and things far better than we can imagine can happen. the most powerful institution of slavery in the modern world coming to an end was something that people could not plan for. the other thing i would say, i read a wonderful report, and the final part of that after all of these impressive structural changes, is the specific culture of the country. it is what you are doing right
now. it matters what we are thinking and saying and talking to each other, and we have to keep that alive, too. whatever the election cycle brings us, we have to keep our specific culture of democracy alive. that's what i think. jeffrey: thank you for that, it is such an important reminder. it does matter what we say and do. friends, the fact that all of you are taking an hour in the middle of your busy evening, asking such great questions, and you're hanging on our every word as i can see in the chat box. it is a reminder that when we come together to learn with reason, we can indeed appeal to the better angels of our nature and grow together in wisdom. that's what the constitution center will continue to do, bring you brilliant minds like the ones you just heard. i am so grateful to all of them for having spread so much historical and constitutional light. joanne, norm, ed, thank you so much for a wonderful discussion.
friends, thank you for joining. and see you on june 30 for the battle for the constitution and the future of policing. thanks to all. have a good night. >> thank you so much. jeffrey: thank you. bye. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend. you can watch lectures in college classrooms, tours of historic sites or films and see our schedule of upcoming programs. this summer, historian harold holzer is hosting a series of talks about artifacts featured in their joint publication, the civil war in 50 objects. they discuss objects related to the age of 53 draft riots in new york city. here is a preview. 1853.
>> two leading papers are sitting south of city hall arc. -- city hall park. you can see a crowd being dispersed. crowds manage the new york times and the tribune. henry raymond, the founder of the times was on the roof is building with leonard and jerome , if that name sounds familiar, he had a daughter named jenny who was destined to be the mother of winston churchill. jerome and henry raymond were on the roof with a gun aiming at protesters threatening the paper. the tribune armed itself with munitions from the brooklyn navy yard. eventually this mob and you see are some of the caricatures
anti-irish caricatures. eventually they crashed through the downstairs rooms of the tribune that were reserved for papers and ads and they sent fire to this room -- set fire to this room. an army of police came from city hall park and attacked the mob and dispersed it. the attempt to interfere with progressive newspapers was blatant also. this is just one of the things that took base. only -- by the way, it they male and female riot dug cobblestones -- male and female riot. they dug cobblestones out of the
street. there was a lot of rioting on 59th street where it was being built. abraham lincoln was solid on this. -- hevernor was friendly rs myd the writers -- riote friends. lincoln authorized the deployment of federal troops dispatched from the gettysburg area and they ultimately fired their weapons downtown and that ended the riots. >> learn more about the draft riots today at 6:00 p.m. eastern, 3:00 p.m. pacific here on american history tv. from andrew: -- andrew cohen.
it defined his response to the nuclear arms race and civil rights. he is the author of "two days in june." the white house historical association provided this video. colleen: andrew, tell us about your book, which focuses really on two days in the kennedy presidency -- june 10 and june 11, 1963. why did you decide to write a book focused on only two days of the kennedy presidency and why did you pick those two days to focus on? andrew: thank you, colleen, it is a great honor to be here with you and the white house historical association. it is meaningful to me because it was founded by jackie kennedy 60 years ago. i had been looking for a way into the kennedy administration for some time.