tv Democracy Elections and the Vote CSPAN April 24, 2016 2:35pm-3:36pm EDT
any other form, it's very dense. these are talking about the fact that hip-hop not only has rhymed endings but internal rhyme it. he started educating me in all of these different devices that are very, very important to the success of the show. >> tonight at eight eastern and pacific, from c-span's "q&a." scholarsconstitutional akhil reed amar and richard discuss the evolution of the democratic process and the establishment of a bipartisan system in the united states. they start with the earliest presidential elections in the late 18th century. and described changes to the process up until today. the new york historical society hosted the event, it is about an hour. so pleased to welcome akhil reed amar back to the new york historical society.
before joining yale law school, professor amar clerked for george -- for judge stephen breyer. he is also the recipient of the award for teaching excellence of severalauthor books, including his latest, the law of the land, granted to her of our constitutional republic. thrilled to welcome richard pildes, a member of the american academy of arts and sciences and the american law institute. he is best known for his casebook, the law of democracy, legal structure of a political process, which effectively of legal new field scholarship on issues concerning democratic elections and institutions.
in addition to the law democracy, his work focuses on american political polarization, the voting rights act, structure of america's political processes, and the oversight of the u.s. supreme court. before we begin, i would like to ask everyone to turn off cell phones, anything that makes a noise, and now, please join me in welcoming our speakers. thank you. [applause] professor amar: lots to talk about. we're going to take you from the founding, to the future. not just to today and what's going on in wisconsin, but what might even happen in cleveland and beyond. but since we are the historical society, let's start at the beginning. this will be conversational, the
further back we go, the more i'm going to spout off, and the closer we get to something isevant today, the more rick going to increasingly chime in. we're going to talk about the founding, and then flash forward half century to the reconstruction. after the civil war. flashforward another half century to the progressive era, and also to democratic reforms rick is going to tell you about, flashforward another half century to the 1960's, we all lived through all sorts of things happening in the court and the country, relevant to the law democracy and the right to votes. elections, another half century, yes, it's been that long since the 60's. founding, i the would argue, democratic. extrude nearly so for that time. they put the constitution to the vote.
and for its time, it was stunning. , noew york, for example property qualifications, no religious qualifications, no race test, no literacy test. all adult male citizens got to vote on whether they want to say yes to this constitution. for the time, that was stunning. those were the usual rules in new york. there was a special set of rules in new york and a bunch of other places for this we do moment of the constitution. the right toy vote. today's version has that five times in the document. there is a reason why, i would claim it. there are several reasons. race and slavery, because of you have a right to vote, how is that going to work when some states led free blacks vote, and others don't. if you have a right to vote,
what about property qualifications? can you have a uniform set of property qualifications across the states, given the land is valued at different rates? they didn't have it. and we do have it today. so far, agree or disagree with that set of claims, rick? goingsor plides: i'm not to disagree on your knowledge of original constitutional history and the founding. i think that is right. i think when the national government was being created, there was tremendous anxiety about the new centralized government. and a desire to limit its control over politics. it would have been extremely controversial to resolve of the national level questions about the organization of democracy. who would have the right to participate with the right to vote, how election districts would be drawn, where there
going to be election districts at all? ,r would voting be at large selecting members to congress. should they be all elected on one slate for the state of pennsylvania, or should pennsylvania be divided up into a bunch of different districts. all of these kinds of issues were intentionally left to be resolved at the state level. professor amar: exactly so. whether you can vote for congress is determined by whether you are allowed under state law to vote for your state legislature. haveif you had tried to , there's nos bureaucratic capacity to enforce that. doesn't,al government even in our lifetime, have a lot of capacity to monitor every precinct in every polling booth. a lot is left to local option.
professor plides: can i just say, one of the amazing things about the system of democracy we have today -- for example, if you think about the bush versus gore disputed presidential election in 2000. people looking at the ballots. if you remember this, these were people at the level of individual counties in florida, with the power to decide things like what constitutes a valid vote. and how can we have such an incredibly decentralized system for resolving the most important office in the land, who ha control of the presidency, the most important office in the world. that's because all of the changes that have been made at the time had been layered onto this initial constitutional architecture. which fundamentally has not changed. therefore, all this decentralization was built in at the beginning is still reflected
in our political practices, even with respect to something like the election of the president. election amar: direct of the president, you may have been taught they didn't embrace direct election of the president because they didn't really believe at all and democracy. i think that is overstated. they put the constitution to a vote. you have been taught as a balance between big and small states. i think that has been overstated. because that's what the house versus senate is. but america isn't divided big and small. the big states tend to have nothing in small -- nothing in common with a small. america is divided. that's not why we have the electoral college. as you can see with some of these pictures. hasica is divided, always been, north against south and coast against the center. try to figure out which two dates these are. there are two different electoral college maps, they are not the same year.
these are the elections of 1796, 1800 america, divided north against south. jefferson against adams, the southern against the northern or new york was a slave state at the time. , coastgainst south against the center. but also, the cities against the hinterland. that's what it looks like today. it's a pretty red country when you look at the land. why did they have the electoral college? we will get rick back into the conversation. here, hecarver were would say, it's slavery, stupid. have directou election, the south will lose every time, because it can't account for slaves at all. if you have electoral college, you can count slavery with a discount of 3/5.
it's also going to be reflected in the electoral college. north against south. who is the big winner for 32 in the first 36 years? slaveholding-- plantation owning virginia. pennsylvania in 1800 has more free people in virginia. way more voters in virginia. way fewer electoral votes in virginia. voteske away the extra because of slavery that thomas jefferson is getting both times, you take them away in 1800, and john adams wins that election two. john adams lost in part because the votes from southern states are being inflated by the presence of slavery. one other thing where want rick to jump in yet again, the framers at the beginning weren't thinking about political parties. they weren't imagining you would have to parties. washington is a man above parties. hamilton on his right and jefferson on his left. but every single elector votes for him twice.
here's how you can see that. in the original electoral college, the person who comes in second for the presidency is automatically the vice president. so when adams beats jefferson the first time around in 1796, jefferson comes in second, and he is the vice president. they begin to emerge as heads of these competing factions, and you have the sitting president in the rematch running against the sitting vice president. and that's because they weren't quite thinking initially about -- think about very bluntly, the the very unstable precarious situation where a person who is a heartbeat away thinksl executive power that the guy who has it is completely wrong on everything. , andis not a great system the constitution is going to get
,mended after that rematch jefferson adams rematch with aaron burr coming in to new york. the constitution is going to get amended, the 12 amendment, so you can vote separately for the president and the vice president. it's going to create the possibility, not yet fully implemented, but the possibility of having parties that runs late. our party proposes ask for president and his running mate why for vice president. we made possible, the more modern system by the 12 amendment. i think the 12th amendment at least anticipate the possibility of parties. rick may have a different view. professor plides: i think this is probably the biggest area in terms of how democracy actually functions when they are up and running. at the framers didn't anticipate. they did not have a modern enough sensibility of how
democracy would actually have to get organized and structured and channeled. not only did they not anticipate the emergence of political , which had huge ramifications to the way the system of governance and elections and politics actually work -- once parties come into being. the constitution was exquisitely written with the hope that it would forestall the rise of political parties. if you know the famous federalist number 10 with madison writing about the problem of action. ,n the hope that this system being designed through all of these checks and balances and diffusion of political power across national government, state government, congress, the presidency, bicameral legislature -- the hope that this structure would preclude the rise of factions, before political parties. what was thought to be so bad about parties -- it's still interesting, to see the
residence of this concern in modern disdain for political parties -- parties were thought to be sectarian. they were thought to be partial. they would not be organized with an aimed towards the general good with the common good. and the strongest expression of the sensibility, this antiparty sensibility, which was very much part of the way democracy in eriods was thought about, was in the post-french revolution constitution, it was made a crime to be a member of a political party. russo, he know your talked about the general will, a republican government, as they would say, was about the realization in the expression of the general will. parties were thought to be antithetical to the realization of the general will.
and so the constitution was not only designed in a way that didn't foresee the necessity of parties, but was specifically designed to preclude their rise. in any modern political system over any large-scale, political parties turn out to be absolutely crucial intermediary vehicles for organizing citizens to participate, organizing candidates to run, organizing government and giving some coherence to the system. as one ofwould see the essential attributes of what makes the system of democratic system, that's a multiparty democracy that allows for political competition through political parties. but once political parties actually arrive and get accepted and become part of the fixture of american democracy, which doesn't really happen until the 1830's are 1840's -- and not until that point does it become
accepted that it's ok to have competing parties pushing for power, that is actually a normal way for the system to work -- professor amar: a key figure here is new york's own martin van buren. professor plides: he's one of the great theorists of democracy, and even better, practitioner of american democracy. he kind of invented the modern political party, with the democratic party in that area. but in any event, once you have a world in which parties are so central, you can see also the ways that it changes the operation of the system. let me give you an example that will be obvious to you right away. relates to president the congress. it is so much through the dynamics of partisan political competition, or affiliation, they are the same party. the way our separated power very muchks is
dependence, of course, as we know, on whether the same party controls the presidency and the senate and the house, or whether government is divided. when the system was designed, as you well know, the madisonian idea was that these institutions would check each other, because senators would have an interest in preserving the powers of the senate and in the house members would have an interest in preserving the powers of the house. they would stand for these institutional interests. but was there a very powerful party ties across these branches, the way the system works is not the madisonian vision of these institutions checking each other. it's a question of what the political party dynamic is. professor amar: that is your others, ing with effect on a formal separation of powers, legislative versus executive is complicated and transformed by republicans
versus democrats, rather than executives versus literature. thesesor plides: the way institutions work, we have two different systems. in times when we have the same local party control -- professor amar: unified control. professor plides: there's been everyone with a the system works. you'll probably have very little checking of the president if the same party members of commerce and not going to hold aggressive hearings. professor amar: great society, obamacare, new deal. professor plides: in divided government, the system can become incredibly paralyzed. when the political parties become as hyper polarized as they have over the last starting 30 years ago or so and increasing in this relentless way, year after year after year, to the point we are at today. you get a system that is largely paralyzed. professor amar: nixon impeachment, clinton impeachment. professor plides: fewer active
legislation that have prior times in history, incredible gridlock, government can't get people appointed. professor amar: we are getting already to the present. i want to go back one more time and show you the beginnings of this party system that rick has identified. withee it a little bit jefferson versus madison, but then it kind of proceeds, everyone votes for monroe, who hands off power to john quincy adams, so we're all getting along. but new divisions reemerge, the jacksonians against the anti-jacksonians. slavery was driving things. the presidency was designed to and inside track. 32 of the first 36 years, eight nine presidential elections is a slaveholding virginian who wins.
and until lincoln, you don't really have any antislavery presidents. who has president say slavery is wrong, which eventually get rid of it. john quincy adams doesn't say that until he is no longer president. only has to deal with a massachusetts-based and he becomes old man eloquence. dad john adams runs with another south carolina guy. ok. then abe lincoln gets elected, the country goes through the civil war. here's what i want to tell you now, i told you we jump to half-century. transformation, and to describe it come the 13th, 14th, 15th amendment the parties here are playing a huge role in generating the amendments. here's what they are public and
party platform is in 1860. read our lips, no new slavery. no slavery in the west, but we're not what a mess with it where it is. out,64, the war and broken and they are much more in fatah, we propose to get rid of slavery where it exists. it's going to apply even in the north, kentucky, missouri, waredela maryland, slave states in the north. and their platform in 1864, the republican platform is we are for a constitutional amendment to get rid of slavery. the democrats say the union as it was. there's an election, lincoln wins, and that's with the movie is all about. and in the lame-duck, lincoln's arm-twisting a handful of democrats, who are persuadable, bridal. he's got all sort of offices to hand out.
they have been tossed out of a tower, he can maybe help them land on their feet and move into his party. so the 13th amendment is organized by a partisan election. moment, there's this and this is c-span, so i will moments, the oh crap they saw the 14th amendment, the end of slavery was amazing. but then wait a minute, u.n. end slavery, and 3/5 counts as 5/5. even though they're not being allowed to vote in the south, it's going to come back into the union with more seats than it had before, and service generates the need for another constitutional amendment, section two of the 14th amendment that you haven't heard so much about.
every single republican in congress except one person votes for the 14th amendment. everything will democrat in congress votes against it. the totally partisan thing, every bit as much as obamacare. is then the 15th amendment also very partisan, because the 14th amendment, one part of the deal is the south could come back if they let black vote, but the 14th amend that doesn't quite require blacks to vote everywhere. grant loses the white vote. doy realize we had better some more stuff, we are going to need an amendment that brings black votes to the north. that's also a partisan thing. republicans are for it, democrats are against it. -- permanentuilt parties, not temporary federalist, anti-federalist but permanent institutional parties play a massive role in the constitutional transformation for the 13th, 14, and 15th amendments. they've been baked into the amendment cake, at least for
these amendments. where did they go wrong? professor plides: you know, i wish there times to respond to all of your work. i'm not sure there's any thing i think is wrong. the only thing that's wrong is the steven spielberg focused his movie on the wrong amendment. the coma nation of the civil war was the 13th, 14th, and ultimately the 15th amendment. professor amar: i went to fast. the 13th plides: amendment end slavery. the 14th amendment makes clear anyone born in the united states is a citizen of the united states. and of the state in which they reside. professor amar: black people are citizens, dred scott is overruled. professor plides: it establishes no state can deny equal protection of the law to any person. professor amar: racial equality. professor plides: it has an
important but not well recognized section two provision , -- professor amar: if you disfranchised folks, you lose state in the house in the electoral college. it wasn't quite fully enforced. you're going to pay a penalty if you start franchising. professor plides: it's fundamentally about ensuring andity -- equality protecting citizenship. it's not a live 15th amendment that you get to what was the most controversial piece of reconstruction, which is the question of whether the constitution protects the rights to >> the thing that was finished at the founding because that was going to be a dealbreaker. part of the reconstruction process that took the most clinical power to establish was the 15th amendment protecting against discriminatory
practices. that amendment had significant effect -- we can argue with how until theis but 1890's, that amendment essentially became a dead letter. you have the massive disenfranchisement of blacks in the south and about third of whites as well through grandfather clauses, literary tests will poll taxes, good and moral standing clauses, reading and understanding provisions in >> and theytion, are disenfranchising folks but not haying the penalty they are supposed to pay for fewer seats. section two -- >> speaking of 1890, that top map is an electoral college map
and that is lincoln's coalition. what is this one on the bottom? today, but what is the change? we are divided the same way. if you states have flipped. the blue guys are the democrats. the tall, skinny constitutional lawyer from illinois, abraham lincoln's coalition, that is barack obama and the democrats. the nominal party of lincoln has become the party of the confederacy. there are these basic divisions, north against south, so we are through -- take us into the 20th century. >> one thing people don't frequently remember about the
effects of disenfranchisement is -- and also a little bit about what drove disenfranchisement was that it was not purely about race issues. expressiona cultural , it was part of partisan power political dynamics. was disenfranchisement designed to do was destroy coalitions that were very significant in the southern states up until the 1890's, between blacks who were now black men and able to vote and in the eighth been 88 presidential election, two thirds of adult lack men are voting. you've got a coalition between the white populace and african-american men, male voters, that were very significant horses in partisan politics. there were deep conflicts between the former plantation,
much more conservative oligarchic landholding and for hardscrabble white farmers. was disenfranchisement did destroy that alternative due to control of southern carla ticks -- southern politics and as a result of that successful disenfranchising technique, the american south became a one-party democratic monopoly from sometime in the early 20th theury all the way until 1965 voting act. it is a monopoly. there's no meaningful republican party in the south throughout most of the 20th century, and for has huge ramifications the way political parties are organized nationally and we have a very different kind of lyrical
system because you have just one party in the south. 1965 voting rights act, by getting rid of the barriers to participation primarily for african-americans but also for whites disenfranchised by some of these techniques, begins the process of ringing into politics all of these much more liberal forces. the effectiveness takes a number of decades to work through the system, but what you have is the beginning of bringing to bear political pressure of these more liberal forces and eventually get the emergence of a more liberal segment of the democratic party in the south, a more conservative whites in the south split off into a republican party and is not
until the 1990's that you get roughly will to party political competition in the south. there are now two strong, relatively equal political parties. the south becomes increasingly republican, but the disenfranchisement because the 15th amendment was a dead letter for so long has all of these ramifications on how political parties get organized and how they function. >> tell us about parties, primaries and their origins in a nutshell. here is a version of what rick promised blackey people equal voting -- we the people, we promise that and it
worked for a while and then we stopped doing it. by thelty is being paid jurisdictions and the courts are not forcing the voting rights and in the 1960's, lyndon johnson, a democrat, pushes through the voting rights act of 1965 and the supreme court starts to weigh in and we the people are doing some amendments. the 18-year-old vote is happening. it resulted in the fundamental realignment for steps. we start with the conservative party, the democrats in the south are the conservative base.
they oppose lincoln. democrats who are were liberal and democrats who were very conservative, and there both in the same party. johnson's965, lyndon party pushes through the voting rights act and says we're going to let black people vote in the south. very few black people were voting in the south. voting rights act passes and blacks in droves join the democrat party. white conservatives in the south who had been in kratz become republicans. conservative, southern democrats become
republican. they push the republican party hard to the right. a lot of the blacks are moving in and the conservative, southern whites push out of the party. the liberal, northeastern republican, the rockefeller republicans, lincoln chafee and jim jeffords and arlen specter your -- even john paul stevens, liberalrthern rockefeller republican types are getting pushed out of the party. the republican party is moving hard to the right and the democrat party is moving to the left. world which is a which the most conservative democrat in
congress is still to the left of the most liberal republican. there are not so many left anymore. realignment massive in which we have ideological alignment. for a lot of the 20th century, we didn't have it. of primaries. returns in from wisconsin yet? one word about what you just mentioned and then i will talk about medical primaries and how to understand our current moment in this election. just told you about, the dynamics of the reorganization of the party and the catalyst of the voting rights act explains in my mind
that the political polarization moment,is not a passing not a product of particular individual political personalities. a reflection of this very artificial world of a one-party political system that led to this nationally where the parties were all mixed up in various ways, liberal democrats, conservative democrats and liberal republicans and conservative republicans. when you see the data, you can increasesrs or so the in polarization of the parties that move in a pretty linear fashion. >> one element is what they call the big sort. sorting out of the parties.
>> they are much more ideologically coherent, much more ideologically differentiated from each other. voters understand the parties and what they stand for much better than when they were weak knees. they know what it means to vote for a republican or democrat and people have this nostalgia for the statesmen of the past from the 70's or the 60's or whatever era is in memory. figures were enabling this because the party system was so fluid and not polarized in the whoever you extol as the model statesmen we need more of, i think this is a way of understanding the polarization may not always the
as intense or ugly, but fundamentally, political polarization is making the system -- it's more of a normal state of affairs for the system put tremendous pressure on how our institutions function given the separated powers system we have and how difficult it is to generate this sort of action. to talk about political primaries and how we got to where we are at the moment in this election, it does tie into what we have been talking about in the role of clinical parties. part of the question you have to think about is how do you think about parties and are they good things? should they have a significant role in helping to choose the nominees of the party? as opposed to the system we have gravitated to in which the
almost no control over who becomes their nominee. >> you mean the establishment? >> the established party leadership, committee chair people, people invested in the now have a system we have only had since the 1970's in which the primary through the voting process almost completely determines who the candidates of the parties are. and so you are able to have a figure like donald trump who many republican party figures who have been active in the party for decades do not view as a republican, but somebody who has managed to mobilize popular
support through the primaries running under the label of the republican party, with the party leadership having very little capacity to stop it. on the democratic side, we are not as far from that as you might think because bernie sanders is not a democrat. he is an independent. he is not raising money for the democratic party and he is running as an insurgent. but he understands feeling way to try to be effective is to run under the party label, get into the debate, get the attention that comes from that. ralph nader had a piece recently for praising bernie sanders for doing the right thing as an outsider insurgent. >> the guy -- i promise that we would tell about the early 19
teens and i learned something amazing for me very recently. i thought all this primary stuff was very new. evidence that primaries have been flowed and were rather important earlier in the 20th century than i had realized. >> i am happy to talk about the progressive era, which we are returning to with the modern primary structure. starting the story in the early part of the 20th century. when we began, the primaries hardly played any role. it began in 1912 when teddy roosevelt wanted to challenge president taft as the nominee of the republican party. taft was the sitting president and controlled the party apparatus.
the progressives were out there electionsr primary because they hated the political party. they thought they were corrupt. they talked about trying to and the tyranny of the party. they believed in the purity of the people. if the people could vote directly, everything would be wonderful. noteddy roosevelt, who did believe in the primary as a principal, he started pushing hard for primaries because he knew that was the only way he could go outside the party apparatus, if he is an insurgent. with 14 we ended up states having primaries and for about six years, the primary elections were used to play a role.
determinative role but they played a role in selecting the party nominee. from 1920 until 1970 or so, we had a different system. states repealed their primary law. we had a mixed system and it was an incoherent mix of two different visions of how democracies should choose presidential nominees. you might think it worked pretty well. the way it worked is there were a certain number of primary elections, but only a certain percentage of the delegates were determined by the primary election. the dominant force in choosing the candidates was still in the party organization at the convention. the primary part of the process
allowed outsiders to challenge the party orthodoxy to some prove theytry to were credible candidates to challenge the party hierarchy. within as all framework in which it was understood that the party officials still have the capnant voices, so that these candidates looking with one eye toward making sure they didn't go too far away from what was accessible in the already's framework. so candidates would have a mix of strategies. ase people would run insiders and just focus on the party leadership. in 1960, john f. kennedy and lyndon johnson, johnson is the consummate insider and he
decides to try to become workingt, primarily by through the party leadership and not running in the primaries. kennedy, because he is a catholic and less well-known, there's a lot of anxiety about whether voters will vote for a catholic. he has to go out and show he can be electable in a state like west virginia. a very protestant state. he made a statement about the separation of religion, the system was a mixed system that was not created in one moment of careful thought, but reflected both some role for popular participation in some world war party figures who knew the candidate and watch them in government and office in one form or another and can make can hold about who
coalitions of the party together and to is going to be electable. wrote down after the democratic convention in 1968. a lot of stuff broke down in that era around that democratic convention. hubert humphrey becomes the democratic nominee. he had not run in any primary and he defeats people like eugene mccarthy and others that run in the primaries. there are a million things going on. martin luther king costs assassination -- there's tremendous reaction against that convention, especially after humphrey loses the election and the democratic party decides that to revisit the rules for
how nominees are chosen. >> we are going to take questions and just a couple of anutes with a transition to conservative southern democrat. george wallace complicating things -- the democratic coalition that had held together with lyndon johnson from the south and jack kennedy from the north is breaking up before our very eyes in 1968. remember the democratic party for a long time had a solid south. who is franklin roosevelt's running mate? garner from south texas. it's all cracking up before our eyes in 1968. >> the democratic party is really be your ship. commissionfamous
called the mcgovern fraser commission that looks into the rules to figure out how to make the party more legitimate and open up some. toy propose a series of warm do things like open up the caucus system. opposed,e reforms get the way the states respond is to say the easiest thing to do is to shift the primary election. so there is a massive shift that occurs by 1976. delegates begin to be selected by primary election. when this system went into effect in the early 70's, these are two very famous political scientists. this had always been an ongoing
anxiety about the method you choose a president, going back to the 19th century. they said if you go to this purely populist system in which the figures don't have anything meaningful to say then there's a tremendous risk we will get more personality-based candidates and leads to the demagogue unconstrained by allegiance have little to lose and are storing up last hatred, making up absurd problems -- promises. are laughing as if you think it happens now but i think they got it completely wrong. predicting we are going to have candidates who would have little to lose by stirring up mass hatred or making absurd promises. i think maybe we are getting
someone who has little to lose by stirring up mass hatred and making absurd promises. [laughter] we have to get some folks involved. here is what i would like for you to do. one question. but make it quick and we will get through lots. >> could the 14th amendment second class he used as a legal tool to challenge voter id laws? >> no. >> yes. section two of the 14th amendment is this really interesting thing. one of the most sustained discussions about it just happened in the supreme court. the court has not used it as a big basis before. that they haven't done anything like that before, but 15 years ago, they hadn't
used the second amendment. 30 years ago, they had relied on the 10th amendment, so never say never about a constitutional call. >> how would things have been different if our representation was not geographical? >> european-style? >> i wonder what you are imagining as the alternative. one of the things that is unique is we have a two-party system and most of them have multiparty democracies. people have written about why is this? does it reflect the fact that the united states has a centrist culture? i think the answer is no. , as doesm we use
it has very strong incentives that leads to the two-party system. if you have single-member districts, you may tend to get to parties. >> if we went to a proportional representation system or electing members of congress, depending on if we chose like a prime minister in a parliamentary system, i have no doubt we would have four or five significant parties. democratic party splinter off. we would have something like a green party. the institutional structures create tremendous incentive to
organize channel politics in one direction or another for we tend to take for granted the kind of politics we have without being aware of the institutional and legal framework that makes that kind of politics. parties become more intractable and less tolerant of the opposition, hasn't the american public in the loser because their interests appear to fall by the wayside in party interest appear to be the most prominent issue? >> one thing political scientists will tell us about the benefits of the current system, which you may not think about is that voters now do understand much better what they are voting for in a world in which the parties have clear labels and mean very clear
things. most voters have trouble sorting through individual members of congress and the individual senators. with differences among presidential candidate tend the party label is the single most forrtant informational tool a benefit ofter, clarity like this if people turn out because they perceive a lot to be mistake from the choice for presidential elections has been going up, that is a benefit. there's a tremendous set of cost, which is does it make the system ungovernable because the to separatel design these institutions that they
somehow have to be united doesn't make the system less to what the median person, whatever that means, would for. if you look at studies that ask about the 10 most important issues of the day identified by various public opinion metrics, to what extent is legislation addressing those issues, we are at a very low time, not surprisingly because of those metrics. one of the things i think is inevitable with this kind of paralysis of the legislative you are under presidents of both parties going to get more unilateral executive action. you will have a lot more power in the administrative agency, and you will have a lot more power in the court. struggle over who gets to the court is going to be very intense. i think it is a very big problem.
can this system be able to function through the legislative process that we imagine to be the central driver of legitimate, traffic -- democratic politics in a world of such hyper polarized parties? >> we want to get in as many etchant is we can. one sentence on that question before we take the next question. there are some political scientist to think there is what is called asymmetric polarization. the republican party has moved further to the right and the democratic party has moved to the left -- than the democratic party has moved to the left. say that there's a problem with the two-party system. there may be a problem with one half of one of our parties and you can guess which one that is.
>> my question piggybacks on the back of that. has american politics become more polarized in do you think there's a way to retract from that and if so, what that can be taken? how can we help the process? >> this goes back to the discussion about political primaries and how the process has changed over time. part of the story i was telling the story about desirability of accepting a certain kind of role for the political parties that is in populistion with the way of thinking about it that become so dominant in our politics over the last 30 or 40 years. still in that world of mixed methods of choosing presidential nominees, if the party figures had a much larger
role than the nonexistent role they have today, would you get candidates who reflected more of balance of coalitions to the factions in the party and with the party play a moderating role in a polarized world? tremendous fragmentation and diffusion of power a way from the political parties today. the campaigngh finance system created a world in which all the super pac's and out site groups that are not political parties have the right to raise unlimited amounts of money while political parties can't do the same thing. part of what that means is the reforms like mccain-feingold, which banned a lot of this money coming into the political party had the effect of sending that money to all of these outside groups.
does that make our system better ifwould it be a better world we have to accept that it is inevitable that money will be playing a significant role in the electoral process? is it better to have that channeled through the political parties than the candidates who are accountable for the ads they run, accountable for the positions they take, rather than have these out by groups that take our away from the party? we need to be thinking about political parties in american democracy and whether our our desire toem, empower these citizens, whether this is really likely to create best functioning democratic system of government, of choosing candidates and nominees, or whether we need to
think harder about those questions. >> thank you so much for this program. [applause] i want to remind you that he'll be signing books this evening thursdayck with us on for another great program from don j through the roberts court. stay with us and we look forward to seeing you all again. thank you very much. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv -- 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on seas and three. follow us on twitter for information on her schedule a