tv Congress Political Parties Polarization CSPAN March 17, 2021 10:45pm-11:44pm EDT
host a discussion on congress, political parties and polarization from the timer americans founding to the civil war today. speakers include twine freeman and political scientists, norment. this event took place online because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the national constitution center, provided the video. and now, it is a great honor to introduce our guest, what an amazing panel, america's most distinguished historians and scholars of congress to help us
understand our current fixations. edward is a boat right professor of the humanities and president emeritus of the university of richmond. he is the author of many books on the civil war and reconstruction, including, and i'll just highlight one of his many award-winning books, the thin light of freedom, the civil war and emancipation and the heart of america, which he discussed that the national constitution center in 2017, his forthcoming book is the southern journey, the migration of the south, 1790 to 2020. edward areas, welcome, it is an honor to have. you my pleasure >> thank you. and john freeman is class of 1954 professor american history of american studies at yale university. where she specializes in politics and political culture of revolutionary and early national periods. she's cohost with head hairs of the very popular american history podcast, backstory.
and it's great to have you nineties co-pot castor's together and is the author of many books as well, including the most relevant for discussion tonight, the path breaking affairs of honor. national politics in the new republics, as well as field of blood, violence in congress and the road to the civil war. john, it is such an honor to have you with us. >> thanks for having me. and norman holmes teen his the residents voice to these elections and the u.s. congress. his books include one nation after trump, a guide for the complex disillusion the, desperate and the not yet departed. i love his book titles because the next one, we did in the constitution center and it depressed as even before we began the program. it's even worse than it looks how the constitutional politics and very relevant for tonight. the broken branch, how congress
is filling america and how to get it back. contract he's a friend of the center and appears it's wonderful to have dropped the violence that consume the nation in general and in congress leading up to the civil war between 1813 1860, there were more than 70 violent incidents between congressman and the house and senate chambers, or on nearby streets and dueling grounds, and you know that it wasn't confined to congress between july and october 1835 alone, there were 109 riots nationwide. so much more -- let me ask it this way, is it true that there was more violence then and congress in particular but also in the nation in general then there is
now? why was it and give her audience a sense of how violence congress was. >> to answer question first, this is going to be an obvious thing to say but congress is a representative institution. so it does very much reflect the ethos of the time and, the fact of the matter is, first half of the 19th century, i'm sure and will tell us, the second half of the 19th century were very vital. so some of the violence that you are seeing in congress is really representative -- but what i was interested in and what really drew my tension was the amount of it and the dynamic of it. and, you know, you are discussing the year standing up to the civil war and that is worth noting, a violence or at least the extreme violence really begins in the 18 thirties is not a constant wave
if you track was fighting who initially you see one friday party fighting over another now what struck me is interesting, most of all, and wet really shows violence as a tool in the antebellum congress is southern nearest knew that to a certain degree, they were willing to do and more willing to engage in hand to hand combat act and they would deliberately intimidate and threaten northern congressman and some of them could silence themselves or sit down and not stand up, rather than risk either that threat or being humiliated in front of public by being threatened and then having to back down before it.
so, violence was shocking all by itself, but what's particularly interesting is, it was a deliberate tool of debate. and overtime, what happens is by the 18 fifties in the 18 fifties, some northerners decided that it can be their tool as well. >> that such a powerful turn in the book when you describe how the decision of northerners to challenge southerners to duels actually decrease the violence and you quote from that remarkably moving a letter, which you said moved you to tears when representatives weighed chandler and cameron, who all pledged to challenge future doers to fight. when it became dawn that some northern southerners -- and southern insights -- have to, say finally, there we have this really wonderful new
exhibit on the civil war and reconstruction, we have thought is stevens, and when i tell the trial sumner story, i quote your book about how some people would run for congress during that period on the grounds that my left hook is better than the other guy. i'm going to beat him up because i'm tougher. and he would bring that to life. so, incredibly powerful. more on all misty, it's all been said or it has been said by an orbit mccarthy, who is a scholar to princeton that we are more polarized today than at anytime since the civil war. you are such an expert of 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? . so, you know, 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
you look at the party system, it was very much in flux. we had a party that was ultimately becoming basically transformed into the martyr republican party. along the way, we had a know nothing party that was very anti immigration. the focus was on catholics on some elements of northern europeans in part. we actually had a president elective on the no nothing ticket. and ultimately, it became the two parties that 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 parties did with that for while, the democratic party actually had a pretty strong pro or anti slavery. we had others who were in the party, copper heads who put in a different way. but of course, it shut down
into a republican with abraham lincoln as president, who became a force against slavery. and we'll talk a lot 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 this society, it broke down obviously along regional lines and those regional divisions continue to persist, but not necessarily 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 those deep divisions that were there, the polarization of the society, the polarization of the parties, mccarthy is right. that what we're seeing now is something far more distinct than what we've seen since any
period in 100 years. >> that's fascinating. and you are teaching that the party system during the civil war period merited the polarization society. nicely reinforces john's point that it may or the violence in society. ahead, your book, the line of freedom argues powerfully at every step, those who would've divides freedom found themselves challenged and sometimes defeated as this history shows, however, black freedom advance faster and further than it champion stream possible, precisely because the opponents of freedom prove so powerful and aggressive. tell us about how it was that with each victory of the armies of the south that provoked northern support for abolition-ism. and then as norm invited, it's a really important story.
if you could take us from the post civil war period through reconstruction, tell us about how the party system reliant and the country became less polarized, even as support for reconstruction is ultimately abandoned. >> as norm was saying, the polarization inside the north, between the democrats on the republicans during the civil war is a fundamental fact that our people often forget. you know, people would say, well democrats lost. they only had 47% of the vote. well, i think we've seen it in our own time that nearly half the election doesn't just go away when they, lose right? and so. in 1864, 10,000 votes in different districts say that number sounds familiar, would have given the election to the democrats in 1864. after all the suffering of the civil war. so we forget that a couple things i've gone differently, abraham lincoln may have not been elected. so that substructure of the northern difference is there and those northern democrats
were as racist as white southerners. and they hated everything the republicans were doing. so, the war ends and the white south says we'll, okay, we've lost. but in the meantime, lincoln's election, andrew johnson becomes president. he seems to cut some slack for the white south and say great. let's push for everything that we can get. let's put those in theirs to reinstitute more slavery is possible. the republicans come back in the congress to right now, there's kind of a quite president running everything. this also kind of sounds familiar to, right? let's do what we can with this president. and so, when the republicans come back in, after writes 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. and, because the white south is just -- and so, the white south just keeps pushing and pushing northern republicans say, okay, it's going to take an amendment to the constitution that you have to support. you're going to have to allow black man to vote and to be targets to write the re-constitution's bitterly for you can come back, and because you've shown us that you are not sorry at all. you had made that you were defeated, but you don't admit that you are wrong. and you have congressional conditions to go out and talk to people across the south and they say, well we're looking for his rubble-ism. the spirit that he even though they lost, they are still the rebels. so the patterns that we still see playing out today where there. i'm not giving up my heritage, i'm holding on to this identity. so as a result, you had the 14th amendment, it's the republicans had not felt that
they didn't revise the fundamental law of the land, the democrats of the north are going to join these white southerners and take away what was seen as such a loss in the civil war. so, that's when i'm -- and then the 15th amendment because to really make sure they really made, it you can take away the vote. so, reconstruction begins and being almost as it begins. by virginia, it's over by 1870. there are textbooks that put the number 1877 in our hand. the reconstruction starts in eight 1871 and 72 all along. so, the white south brings on the fundamental change the law of recognizing that a many born american, you have fundamental rights. that's a resold of white recall -- after reconstruction comes to an end, the united states settles into a pattern that's going to fall for a very long
time. very closely collect contested elections with the south, largely democratic, especially after this franchise meant after the turn of the century. and the north and the u.s. republican. these are the most closely contested, most fondly calibrated elections in american history. all during the period when people think no things happening. in, fact the votes could change the outcome. so it's a fundamental restructuring. but the commonality from what joanne is saying, is polarization seems to find a way to happen. winner take all. two parties. us and them. us and them are shifting, but there seems to be a polarizing impulse in the political culture. >> so interesting. thank you for that. one important point that it was the fear of losing the games of the civil war that led the supporters of the 15th amendment to embody the
constitution. we tell the story of the civil war exhibit in the debate between stephen and james, -- we might lose, it we've got a political constitution, you describe how that was a pattern for so many of the games of the administration and the warning that the losers might not go away gracefully is not so great for today. now joanne we have a bunch of questions from our friends. howard green says one 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 are trying to reach across the aisle from this time, and a question about in the prewar area, was slavery a unspoken
catalyst? do any of those strike you as provocative? >> oh sure. the first question about the northerners and the southerners. i would say the southerners don't stop fighting. they are just sort of thrown off of their feet in a sense because the northerners have been keeping in all along, suddenly there are northerners who are fighting back. now the word bully asking the question is on target because that is the work that people use at the time for the people who were provoking these fights. and billy brooks. he attacks charles. that was his nickname. that is a word apply to people throughout this period so there was a sense that the people before the second half of the 18 fifties that the southerners we're picking up people who could be bullied because they cannot fight back in the same way. what happens is the northerners come. the northern or congressman
were campaigning on the idea that they would fight the slave power. and there is a reality to that in congress that they meant. it and some of them came with weapons and literally made it clear. the document you mention made me terry. these three northerners explain why they will now agreed to dual from now on. and the part that really captured me is at the end, after describing through 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 sleeve or on the floor of congress. so the have made clear discuss what i'm trying to describe in the book. it's bullying but what happens when you are being bullied? this is sort of a simple answer but if you stand up to eight billy sometimes that is a useful thing to do. i will also briefly mentioned i'll question. people reaching across the
aisle. there were. after a certain amount of time that would be hard to do. and you can see the mere hint at a certain point in the 18 fifties that someone would reach across the aisle to someone else is sometimes met by mockery. or they will joke but the job will be yet you do that. i think there is one congressman who says to another you do that, and you better tell your kids to put their sunday vest on because there never want to see you again. so there were some people trying. strikingly to meet in the handful of years after the civil war people were reaching across the aisle off of the floor. they couldn't do it on the floor in the public eye with the press watching. and so they removed himself from congress and try to put it in a separate space but at that point those were not issues that could be compromised. >> a reminder that compromise is possible in secret.
we were able to force the compromises. when tweeted in realtime or even when the presses watching in the civil war. a series of questions. everyone wants to talk about the president. friends we will. but we have to learn about the history at the same time. that's why i'm not jumping into the modern questions. many of our friends are asking why isn't congress standing up to the president today. how could congress tolerate the refusal of donald trump's personnel who refuse -- received subpoenas to testify before committees. should the behavior be punished? we have the question from ralph hendrickson. how can congress regain its oversight of the legislation?
sarah cunningham has asked why is congress and the senate so willing to bow -- in the process of answering those very valid questions give us some historical context. during the civil war it seems that congress was willing to stand up to the congress. for goodness sakes congress passed the civil rights act in 1886 over the president johnson's veto and impeached him because of the distaste for his policies. so compare congress his willingness to stand up to the president then and now. and why. >> i'm going to digress little because it would bring more history into it as well. to set that context. there is a wonderful book by the historian called the first congress. the first congress to not consist of a lot of wonderful towering figures other than he james madison hero. there were a lot of pretty mediocre people but they all
saw that they better established this as an institution that meant something that had respect. they did some quite remarkable things including the bill of rights of course, because they had institutional loyalty in the sense that if a institution could work better get going. the step back a little, bit the constitution was set up to give a inordinate amount of power to the south. they knew it. it wasn't just the way that they set up a portion of the so-called three fifths compromise. the electoral college. the nature of the house of representatives gave them a lot of clout. and because of this determination to maintain slavery. and in the aftermath reconstruction to make sure that they could recapture their power through voter suppression and the use of votes. i would remind people of one other thing or something that most people don't realize. the house started with 65
members. and it was kept in 1929 at 435. it actually didn't change incidence up to the 19th and senses. that was because the southerners saw that if they kept responding to the population by adding numbers it was going to dilute their power and give more power actually to african americans who were emerging. so they figured out how to keep the size 435 and use the power of redistricting a -- use their ability to maintain control to basically keep walks from having any significant role in the south. and keep the law as such so there wouldn't be significant civil rights. which of course wouldn't get until the 1960s. so there's a lot of history here that we have to keep in mind. we also have to keep in mind that it was the southern democrats who from the 1930s all the way through really a
long period of time, 40 consecutive years of power and house of representatives for democrats where they could build a compromised coalition with northern democrats that maintain voter suppression, and their role in the south well giving democrats power. in the aftermath of that is the south changed, it was the republicans who moved in. and began to court voters in a way that also was focused around race answer pressing the power of race. so i want to get all of that on the table. now what i would say about all the questions are asked directly is that we have moved from polarization to tribalism. that began i would say much more with his arrival to congress in 1970. eight and a change in our
politics. in particular a change in the republican party that i believe, and i would say bluntly, is more a cult than a traditional political party. but the framers built-in from the beginning. a recognition that you could end up with the president who would not behave in a fashion that put the entire country first. who might look at for his own economic interests or his family's economic interests or subordinates interests of the country for economic gain. and they built in safeguards. the electoral college was won. but prime above -- among them was the prime branch. because it was not beholden to a president because of a belief that the members would have political scientists in recent decades called institutional patriotism. but provide those checks and balances. if you have a party that
subordinates its own institutional interests to that of a corrupt president or a cult, then you are going to lose that fundamental check. and if another one of those checks, the independent judiciary is tasked beside with a desire to fill it with people who also will have loyalties that do not match what we believe should be eight independent judiciary you leads -- lose many of those checks and balances and we have lost a large number of them now. the rule of the senate to use the power of confirmation for judges and other executive officials. for congress to use the power of the purse to put some boundaries around the presidency for bad behavior by members of the executive branch. when those begin to shred, you lose control over the system. and i believe frankly that is where we have had over the last several years. and it is not something i think
that the framers would view in a positive light. >> very interesting. some powerful statement following up on what you said. -- says to find the difference between pillars of and tribalism. i heard him say it is the difference between a clash of ideas which we saw at the time of the civil war, then a clash of partisanship which we are seeing today where people are moving to buck their party in ways that they weren't back in the civil war, when congress took its institutional role more seriously. even when that meant disagreeing with a president. >> just very quickly jeff, if you view the other party as worthy people, i'll try to sell problems, they are just try to solve problems. you can work through a political process, if you begin
to believe that the other party is a group of evil people trying to destroy your way of life and preventing them from getting power, keeping them down becomes a central goal, and you will swallow hard and put in place a number things that otherwise you would feel is unacceptable. that is the fundamental difference. >> that's amazing. i have to ask whether you take norms comment that people are less willing to recognize members of other parties as people of good faith, i'm going to ask you to tell our friends who are watching about the really powerful website that you have helped to establish electing the house of where you seem to recapture the role of congress as a equal branch of governing, studying side by side the presidency, really
granular data about how grand slam presidential winds often failed to produce -- any presidential majorities to coincide to get sweeping reforms. >> the fact is that political science is some ways, we are very good at looking these moments, the contingencies, they always could, have you can see that the broad patterns, or mentioned that democrats maintain control the house from 1954 through 1994. think about all of the things that were happening in america and those years. and yet, the stability of partisanship. something to think about. we don't want to clarify that because in many ways that control storm said was based on the solid south. and its own kind of tribalism. so when you have white men
disagreeing with other white men, they can feel a kind of solidarity. part of what we are seeing now is a political system that captures more americans. that is obviously the way to think should be. if you think about the stability and the house of representatives, for decade after decade after decade, we want to point out that is in many ways a kind of deal in which the white south would get wet it wanted. being left alone with segregation for as long as possible. at the same time, it would work the same, before this fdr. so you could have elaborate deals and rich different constituencies who were served so. i agree with what norm is saying, that all the norms have fallen apart, so to speak. but, the fact is that we don't
want to forget that all of american politics has been built on tribal identity. it was rachel, for most of american history and was made invisible by disenfranchisement and suppression to voting. so we're seeing that. the map that you refer to allows us to see every congressional district in the united states has voted from 1840 to the president. and you can see which ones flip. i come from a very strict -- i come from the only congressional district in the south that has voted republican since the civil war. so when people look at this later, not now, you'll see in the corner of tennessee, there is one little red arrow and that's where -- i went to andrew johnson elementary school there and we had the identity of being a republican. in my lifetime, to go from being republican in the 19 fifties in the south, and
what's being republican today means or an entirely different thing. some other things are confusing. that this map helps understand. the labels, so you'll see people today attacking democrats, who want to support getting rid of comp federal monuments, because all those guys who are democrats back in the day where hypocrites. being a democrat in the 18 fifties and being a democrat today means ignorant highly different thing. so i think being able to see the broad shifts and the greatest abilities in voting, i don't know that it gives us any confidence that there is going to be stabilization. i think it allows us to see that after great transition of the south of democrat to republican, the system -- there is a kind of disequilibrium that i think is feeding through the clinical system, that has many origins in the social system. >> fascinating, we will talk
about some of those causes and donna, asked where there was website. we just posted it and please explore the link, not now because you have to listen to the discussion. no surfing before class, but afterward. it's really illuminating to dig into a particular electorate here and learn about it. one important teams that you raised in the civil war era and is now relevant, obviously, to today's the poor lies asian is technology and some attributed our current polarization to a world where, as you all love and argue in his recent books, people are more eager to play to their base on twitter than to serve their institutional interest of the white house sort of presidency or even of the media. talk about the role of technology and polarization throughout history, especially beginning in the civil war period and what can we learn from it. sure, well the moment that i find myself thinking about very
often these days is the telegram that the rise of the telegraph of former technology, before the telegraph, there was a certain amount of wiggle room in congress. that if you said something, you were sorry you said or you did something you are sorry did, he could rush over to the newspaper officer go to the reporter and change what you said a little bit. there was wiggle room and it was easier to keep things away from the public eye because there was a more limited number of reporters in washington. the telegraph, fundamentally changes everything. it takes away the wiggle room, there's 45 minutes that everybody knows about something. all of a sudden, there are all of these reporters in washington from all over the nation who can travel that far distance, stay there and telegraph back home. what it is they are seeing. so, congress lose control of the spin and if you think about the congress ideally speaking,
it's supposed to be an ongoing conversation between the public and their representatives, and one way or another. public says what they want, representatives responded some way. technology changes the conversation and there are moments, i think, and right now where in the show shoal media pseudo-equivalent of the technology age where no one quite understands the absolute given take of that former technology and everyone's trying to master it and manipulated and take advantage of it and every now and again -- no one expected that to happen so if the telegraph i'd willing whom not journalist, someone says something goofy at a private dinner and someone has their phone and takes it and then treats it or puts it on facebook and the entire world here is it, that's again, a generation of politicos and politicians who lose control of the conversation to a certain
degree. and now, they're doing that at hyper speed. so we're at this moment where the conch verse action has changed fundamentally at a time when it's highly polarized and everyone is offering everyone else. i'm an american and i represent america and you, as -- evil others who cannot be dealt with. that's a dangerous time to be in this moment of hyper speed and then of course, it's made worse by the fact that we have the first president who is a tweeting president. and if you think back, just a couple of years ago. people kind of figured out what that meant and some things on the tweet had you taken, as it, formalism nonformal? it's kind of mind-boggling and i think we take it for granted, the degree to which the technology can fundamentally scramble the workings of democracy. and i think that some of what we're dealing our way through right now. >> technology against kind of
is a good way of putting and we certainly are feeling our way through it in a dramatic way. norm, how did we obviate some of the floor-ization's the last time around. we saw similar pressures from technology and from of freeing party system, but nevertheless, we evolved to the relative stability of the post war period and what can the lessons of that reconstruction of the deliberative medicine model tell us about how we might get out of our current situation? , well it's not gonna be easy to get out of it. i will say listening to throw on, which is wonderful, there's a little book called the victorian internet which is just a wonderful description of how the telegraph transformed the world, and many people thought it would be just wonderful, that we would be able to communicate face the faith and worse wouldn't and
lots of things would change for the better and what we see now of course is things can change for the better, but they can also change very much for the worst. and you can enhance tribalism and division through that medium. i would say, you know when we have parties that were broader tense, which is what we had in the period, really from the 1930s, to some degree or was there 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, all legals for that infects caught in the south. but we had moderate republicans from the northeast, the new england region, some from the midwest, a lot of them hankering the west coast, which was a republican region back then. washington, oregon, california.
and we call them gypsum office. for the book that affects hardware trees and the northeast. and when we had this grand sorting, and our parties did pull high-rise ideologically, it created a real dilemma. we had leaders in an area that did not have the kind of populists surgeons, much of it until at least the late 1980s, early 1990s, where media and new media and c-span, for example, that exacerbates 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 racism surviving issue. we would not have had those dramatic civil rights bills. the 1957, 1964, 1965 without republicans, northern republicans being decisive -- i was never direction in the
senate, it was bill mccullough from ohio in the house who helped to make sure that you could overcome the southern democratic opposition for those things. but as we began to see these changes that polarized this for the opportunity was there. exacerbated by technological change but medium urging clock. the radio as well as cable news. leaders who found that they could gain power and advancement by adding to this tribalism the. business models that work that had us out of control and without changes. without the sense of a jolt and what i believe is happening now is, we have a republican party that i think is going to have to go through a least three elections, not just in 2020 but in 2022 again. we begin to get traction back
to what would be quite conservative people but problem solving oriented and not willing to use like race and immigration in the way that they've been used in the past. we begin to write the ship and moves back in a different direction. but it's not going to come easily and it's not going to come quickly, i'm afraid. we have to brace ourselves for what's going to be an extended period of real challenges, trying to solve the major problems that we have. economic, racial and otherwise. >> thank you for that sobering but important thought. >> have a nice night. >> come up with another book title. ahead, where the kind of solutions part of discussion, several of our friends in the audience are asking as charges, how big a crisis is this.
do you see a path to fix the problem of congress during that just voter suppression. norm just adjusted, you need a total reconception, in a way that the parties relate to the media to get them to be able to begin deliberating again so, your thoughts on solutions and then i have to ask because it's such a great shot out to your teaching abilities. william, size utters with my favorite professor at the university of genius, we have to ask my question. okay, i will. and he says, hasn't congress given up its authority and created the imperial presidency there that they're complaining about? >> i feel that it's important to think about what's happening right now, outside the political system that's going to have profound effects on the political system. so we've been referred, including myself to southerners as. black southerners have moved
american politics in its most progressive ways all the time for reconstruction. there's no 14th amendment. african american people are not making it clear, they're willing to risk their lives to vote, right? unless the testament from the south on these telegraphs is that these people held in slavery from 200 years cannot wait to get into schools. to learn to read and write, to exercise, two incredible speakers through construction is not just republicans in the north it, black people in the south they're sure they do then you take people poor african american southerners after 100 years of this infringement and segregation. they're the ones who lead to great moral revolution of the united states in the civil rights movement and the civil rights that follow. that's not going to happen, if
they are not in the streets. today, black lives matter is also showing look, you have gridlock, you are all tied up in worrying about each other's tweets, meantime were dying. things are going to have to change. so i think i'm more optimistic through line through these stories is that the people who have been the most victimized by the american political system, i've also been the people most eloquent in articulating american ideals and fighting for it. so, it's hard to know. who would've thought? the thing about all this is three is constant surprise, who would've thought just two or three years ago that most americans were supported weeks long protest? it is the way that it was done. it's the voiced people are used to. the only lesson i have been able to discover in 40 years of teaching history is that nobody knows what is going to happen.
it's just one surprise after another. so here we have gone through this terrible period of dismay. we may be seeing the sprouts of a new era coming up, so that's what i was going to say, is we don't want to forget that with every effort to disempowered people and take it upon themselves to find power in every way that they can. now it's to remove the symbols of the order that held them down for so long. there are reasons to believe that there are a legitimate powers of democracy at work. now remind me of what the question was from one of my favorite students. >> there is a great answer. he was asking why doesn't congress stand up for itself? >> i think that the people know that the voters have their
backs. they will. and so what you are seeing is that people are developing more courage when they know that they are speaking for the majority of people who want justice. i think that you are going to see eight new progressive era. it's going to be coming very soon. it will stay for a long time. by young people for -- the formative political experiences of their lives. i think looking at cycles there is reason to believe that some of the things that we have been worrying about may have a chance to heal themselves. we will see. >> thank you for all of that. >> we joanne had her hand up. >> can i set it up? i know you have a lot of questions. we can't predict history but we can as you have argued to powerfully put it, learn from it. i have to ask you do things
seem less finite today compared to the civil war? the protests have been by and large peaceful and we're not seeing people beat each other up in congress. so the question is why our things less violent now than they were back then if that is indeed true? then i will put on the table this big theme that susan raises and you introduced. a drive to transparency televising committing hearings, political conventions seems to get into the way of the compromise, is there such thing as too much transparency? if that is true might the first amendment prohibit any kind of privatization of media technologies that would allow the kind of moderation and compromise that madison expected? >> there's a lot. there >> there's a lot there but i might have to ask you to remind me. the beginning one is it's less violent now. why is it less violent now? part of that innocence is a
very clear answer. that is the united states in 2020 is not the united states in 1855. when during elections people were killed at polling places. there is a incident in washington where a cannon would shot off at immigrants at a polling place. there's a level of routine violence that was very different. we are in a different moment. we are seeing i think more violence and more threatening behavior than typically we might expect to see. that is part of what people are responding. to i think that is being encouraged and that's why it is there. one way or another, yes, we are less violent. but yes we're seeing a lot of extreme violence and behavior that goes beyond where i think we would be comfortable with under normal circumstances. as far as transparency goes,
you know, that is the eternal problem. transparency seemingly on the surface of it is good. we all know what's happening. we can all see what is happening. but just as you suggested and just as my book suggests, when things happen in front of the public eye that complicates them enormously. so how do you balance the need to in essence were behind the scenes timid over things and then bring it forward to present it in a way that the public is responsible? i don't have a simple answer for that. i just think that that is one of the fundamental questions of balloons in politics generally. but particularly in congress which is so bound up in public opinion. you asked a second question and there i think which i have never gotten. do remember it? if, not i will go back to what i wanted to say before because i wanted to pull together which norman said.
this is the round -- last round. closing thoughts for our friends as well. >> what norm was talking about, we're 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 work. ed was talking about the possible blooming of new kinds of progressive change. and i suppose the way that i think about this is a during moments of extreme, intense change and unstable behavior, as ed, said we have no idea what will happen. we don't know if it's going to all go down. if we are circling the dream. we don't know if it will be okay. i don't know if we can assume yet either. one what this means is as unstable as things feel now there is room for change. what matters now is what we do
in this moment. have we respond to what is going on now. how we realize what's happening now, these are changing, we don't know what is happening, but there is room for growth as well as collapse. i suppose the way that i join it together is just to encourage people to realize that it is vitally important that people think of this moment and its importance. let we their thoughts be, known some of what we are seeing is a vital sign of, that it is important that people see that they can't help bring change and that things aren't absolutely over with. >> that's a wonderfully important note. all is changed. people can influence it, as you said so powerfully, and thanks for bringing things together so well. norm, your closing thoughts.
what would you like our friend to get from this discussion? >> a couple things. jeff we can do things structurally, i was part of the american science and art commission on the common good. there are a whole list of things we can do, that includes enlarging the house of representatives, altering the electoral college, bringing us if we could eight form of akin to the austrian system, other systems in the institutions. there are things that could be done that could improve the institutions, but i also leave you with another challenge. i agree with ed that we had so many positive things happening now, including i think a wider awakening among many white americans that have been
ignored for so long. minneapolis and others have set out. black lives matter is a meaningful phrase. not something to push to the side or ignore. and i think that the immigration struggle has taken us back to understanding what it means. to have a larger, better society. but the institutions by the framers, -- it has nothing to do with donald trump. but in thousand 40 70% of americans will live in 15 of 50, states that means the electoral college will have more instances if we keep it where the winner of the popular vote loses the presidency. and it means that 30% of americans who don't reflect the diversity and economic dynamism of the economy will reflect 170 senators. we know that natural residential patterns, as well
as the way we do business in the supreme court that basically brushed aside doing anything about partisan gerrymandering will distort the house even more so that what voters want will be reflected, there and the courts will take us further and further away from popular, will whatever it is with those elections. we will have some work to do to prevent a real crisis in legitimacy and the system that goes beyond some of the issues that we have talked about, and it's still some of the deeper divisions along, ethnic racial, and regional lines. >> thank you for sobering us in such a powerful way. add, the last word to you. >> the era of the emancipation remind us that things far worse than we can imagine can happen. and things far better than we can imagine can happen. the largest most powerful system of slavery in the modern world coming to an end was
something that people could not planned for. we have a thing that i would say as i read this wonderful report that the american academy has put out. the final part of that, after all these impressive structural changes is the specific culture of the country. it's what you're doing right now. it matters what we are thinking and saying in talking to each other and we've got to keep that alive. but whatever the -- we have to keep pacific culture of democracy alive. that's what i think. thank you so >> thank you so much for that, such an important reminder, does matter when we do, the fact that all of you are -- hundreds of you coming to ask such great questions and your hanging on your every word as you can see in the chat box. is a reminder that when we come together to learn with reason, we can indeed appear to the
better nature and grow together and wisdom. so that is about the constitution center is going to to do. just bringing brilliant minds like once you've just heard, and i'm so grateful to all of them for having spread so much historical and constitutional light. july, norm, ed, on behalf of the constitutional center thank, you so much for wonderful discussion. friends, thank you for joining and say you want to and 30th for the battle for the constitution and the future of policing. thanks to all, have a good night. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. by.
society, chief historian, chief discusses the tumultuous interactions between democratic republican president, thomas jefferson and federalist members of the seventh congress. the first to have a full session in the new capital of washington d.c.. he explains how political differences between the two parties led them to politicize many aspects of daily life. including food, socializing and science. the u.s. capital historical society provided video of the event. >> today is the inaugural scholar series and we thought we would start with our very own chuck digit game -- chuck is really one of the nation's finest scholars on the first congress. and that early period in the development of our country. we have been fortunate to have chuck as part of the usps society team for five years prior