Fifty years ago, critic Lionel Trilling declared that "in the United States at this time, liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition." Today, however, even most Democrats avoid calling themselves liberal. What happened to the liberal tradition in the second half of the twentieth century? What does liberalism stand for at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Can liberals reclaim their once-dominant position in American politics, or is their ideology history?
On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States brought an end to thirty-six days of dramatic vote recounts and legal challenges in the state of Florida. The decision let stand the initial results of Florida's election, which gave the state's electoral votes, and thus the Presidency, to George W. Bush. What was the legal justification for the Supreme Court's decision? Should the Court have intervened in the first place? And what precedent did the Court create for future elections?
As required by the Constitution, the president of the United States is elected not by the national popular vote but by the vote of the Electoral College. In the Electoral College, each state receives as many votes as it has members of Congress. Because every state has two senators and is guaranteed at least one House member, votes of small states count more heavily than votes of large states. Has the Electoral College served the nation well? Or should it be abolished and replaced by a system in which every vote counts the same? Peter Robinson speaks with Jack Rakove and Tara Ross
The Crusades happened almost a thousand years ago—why do they still provoke an argument? Osama bin Laden has used them to attempt to rally the Islamic world to his cause; President Bush has called the war on terrorism a "crusade." But what is the truth about the Crusades? Were they motivated by savage greed and intolerance or by pious idealism? Were they an unprovoked attack by the West on the Islamic world or a reaction to centuries of Islamic incursions? How should we understand the legacy of the Crusades today, in a time of conflict between the West and radical Islamic terrorists?
In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won reelection to a second term in one of the biggest landslides in American history. The outcome was a clear mandate in support of FDR's New Deal—an agenda of large-scale social and economic programs administered by the federal government. Sixty years later, in 1996, William Jefferson Clinton also won reelection to a second term, after declaring earlier that year that "the era of big government was over." How did the Democratic Party get from FDR to Bill Clinton? Now that the Democrats are out of the White House, will they continue the move to the center that Clinton initiated, or will they try to reinvigorate the traditional liberal base of the Democratic Party? Does that traditional base still exist?
George W. Bush, during the 2000 presidential campaign said that "America has never been an empire... We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused." Was then-candidate Bush right when he made those remarks? Or has America become an imperial power in all but name? How do America's unique historical circumstances predispose it to handle the unrivaled power it holds in the world today? And what lessons can we draw from our nearest historical antecedent, the British Empire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?
Since the end of the cold war, the United States has been the world's only superpower, accounting for 43 percent of the world's military expenditures. During this time, America has led major interventions into Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Are the United States and the world better off when America follows a unilateral, interventionist foreign policy? Or should the United States reduce its overseas presence and instead emphasize international cooperation? Peter Robinson speaks with Niall Ferguson and Ivan Eland.
A half-century ago, the ideology of the American political establishment was liberal—the New Deal was still new and big government was getting bigger. Today, after a political revolution that began with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, it may be argued that conservativism has become the dominant ideological force in American politics. But what does conservativism mean today? And if it is ascendant, how long can it remain so? Peter Robinson speaks with Clark S. Judge and John Micklethwait.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy ran to the right of Richard Nixon, arguing that under Republicans, the United States had become too weak in the cold war. A dozen years later, the Democratic presidential candidate was George McGovern. How did the Democratics go from hawks to doves in just twelve years? And what does the history of the Left imply for John Kerry, the Democratic Party, and the war on terror today? Peter Robinson speaks with Anne Applebaum and Christopher Hitchens.
Has increased immigration to EU member nations created distrust and delusion, contributing to a continent in the grip of a culture in the midst of its own suicide?
In the midst of the Great Recession California students protest in favor of themselves. . . .
Biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams and histories of the revolutionary era have been bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize winners in the past several years. What explains this recent surge of interest in the founding fathers of the American nation? What does the fascination with the founding fathers tell us about our own time? What would the founders have to say about the state of the nation today?
Over the past year, the clashes between the Bush administration and European leaders over the best way to handle Saddam Hussein have led many observers to suggest that the half-century-long alliance between Western Europe and the United States is dead. How serious is the rift between Europe and America, and why has it emerged? Is it still in the strategic interest of the United States to maintain tens of thousands of troops in Europe, or should we pull out of NATO altogether?
When the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789, the infamous "three-fifths clause" gave the southern slaveholding states disproportionate power within the federal government. To what extent did this southern advantage help the southerner Thomas Jefferson win the presidency? And to what extent did Jefferson, author of the phrase "all men are created equal," use the power of his presidency to preserve and perpetuate the institution of slavery?
Is France America's oldest friend or its oldest enemy? Americans are taught that the United States owes its very independence to France—that if the French hadn't helped us during the Revolutionary War, we would still be part of the British Empire. Was this assistance the beginning of a long and close friendship between France and America or an anomaly in an otherwise contentious relationship? Peter Robinson speaks with John Miller and Robert Paxton Mellon.
Do the neoconservatives know how to win the war on terror? Much has been made of the influence within the Bush administration of neoconservatives—those who tend to take a hard line in the war on terror and who favored the war in Iraq. Recently two men close to the Bush administration, Richard Perle and David Frum, wrote a book laying out the neoconservative agenda for winning the war on terror and making America safe. Their agenda is bold and ambitious. Critics would say it is reckless and dangerous. Who's right?
Did Ronald Reagan win the cold war? It's been a dozen years since its end—time enough to look back on the era with some historical perspective. And one question that historians continue to argue about is the role that Ronald Reagan, the man and his policies, played in bringing the cold war to an end. To what extent did Reagan's cold war strategy build on efforts of previous administrations and to what extent was it new? Did the Soviet Union collapse as a result of external pressure or internal weakness?
What is the proper role of the intellectual in public life? Plato believed that philosophers should govern society. He founded his famous Academy with the hope of creating such "philosopher kings." Another philosopher, Immanuel Kant, however, believed that "the possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason." Therefore, he argued that intellectuals should keep a proper distance from the political realm. Who is right, Kant or Plato?
The dean brings charges of ‘unprofessional conduct’ for a vigorous defense of free inquiry.