It was easier to read about it and to hear first-hand accounts about it. In fact, they pushed us further apart. We hoped that the internet — this amazing source of information — would bring us closer together. We could say the same about politics today. It came out that Cleveland, a man who had a reputation for moral rectitude, was accused of fathering a child with an unmarried woman while he was a lawyer in Buffalo, New York. Cleveland did not deny paternity. Blaine had his own troubles in that election. Democrats had attacked him for enriching himself by doing political favors for railroads.
Blaine; Continental Liar from the State of Maine. Burn this letter. The nation seems to be in a collective state of shock lately over terrorist attacks, shootings by police and the murder of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. High-profile violence and 15 years of war in the Middle East make the world seem dangerous and unstable.
While this violence pales in comparison to the Civil War — which was by far the single bloodiest conflict in the U.
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This collection of inspirational sermons delivered by a fictional prophet—on love, marriage, work, reason, self-knowledge and ethics—challenged tired orthodoxies and oppressive ideologies. Ever since its publication in , The Prophet has been a salve for readers who tried—in good American fashion—to break from conformity. The Prophet taught self-trust amid the buzzing, blooming confusion of modern America.
Dunning Prize, an award for an outstanding monograph in a subject in U. This event symbolizes the Nadir of Race Relations, a terrible era from to about , when race relations grew worse and worse. During this period white Americans became more racist than at any other point in our history, even during slavery. Also during the Nadir, the phenomenon of sundown towns swept the North.
These are towns that were for decades—and in some cases still are—all-white on purpose. Among the other terrible legacies of that period are its inaccurate white supremacist histories of everything from Christopher Columbus and U. Grant to Woodrow Wilson, and the astounding gap between black and white media family wealth— problems that we are still trying to transcend.
Its success stimulated an entirely new music industry—the gospel blues. That tiny, inauspicious moment in created a subtle yet profound change in American life, ultimately producing musical anthems of powerful personal, moral, and political transformation. Jon Butler is Howard R. About two months after he took office, Franklin Roosevelt appointed a former social worker to head an emergency program of aid to the unemployed. The moment Harry Hopkins started work, on May 22, —before he even had an office—he dragged a desk into the hall of the building where he was located and immediately began sending out money.
Some critics disapproved of his haste and wanted longer consideration of this federal expenditure. It inaugurated a pattern of government action in crises that would otherwise spin out of control. Linda Gordon is a professor of history at New York University and a two-time winner of the Bancroft prize for the best book in U. Yet as a result, working people flocked to the Democratic Party, fostering not only an electoral landslide but also a political coalition that governed the nation for decades to come.
On this Day
Jefferson Cowie teaches at Cornell University. Hugo L. Black first defined and then implemented a reformist agenda that would revolutionize modern American constitutional law.
For his first 15 years, Black set the table with new ideas—often presented in dissent, at first. In his last two decades on the Court, Black would watch his reformist agenda become the supreme law of the land, moving from dissenting opinions to majority opinions on issues of voting rights, speech rights, religious rights, criminal procedure rights and the Bill of Rights more generally.
His latest book, The Law of the Land, was released in April. The Cold War seems inevitable, but few things are. Rather, that road diverged in July of , when Harry S. Truman took the place of incumbent vice-president Henry Wallace on the Democratic ticket. Truman entered the White House with almost no experience in foreign policy.
Who and What Changed America? A 20th Century Timeline
The State Department told him that action must be taken on the Russian threat. The result was the Truman Doctrine: good against evil, communism against democracy, the Cold War. Meanwhile, Wallace — named Secretary of Commerce by FDR after the election — became the leading voice of progressive politics in the Cabinet. He thought there was a way of working out an agreement with the USSR. When he made a speech to that effect, Truman dismissed him from the Cabinet. What a different world there might have been if Wallace, not Truman, occupied the position of Vice-President when Franklin Roosevelt died.
The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty meant that, after intervening twice in the previous 32 years to restore peace in Europe, the U. That act shaped our foreign policy, politics, military spending, military structure, doctrine, equipment and military ethos for the years to come. It had a remarkable and salutary effect on helping to bring a shattered Europe together as a group of free and democratic states.
Today it is our continuing commitment to NATO that prevents any further spillover of conflict as the Russian bear sharpens his claws, again, this time on Ukraine. NATO was created because of the wars of the 20th century, but it has kept the peace in Europe for longer than any time in the previous several centuries. Richard W. He is also president of the U. Commission on Military History, the U. These remarks are his own opinion, not the views of the U. On April 23, , sixteen-year-old Barbara Johns led a walkout by four hundred black students to protest inadequate facilities at segregated Robert R.
Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. Vowing to boycott classes until the local all-white School Board addressed their complaints, Johns and another student wrote to an NAACP attorney, who agreed to file a lawsuit seeking desegregation instead of just improved facilities. This suit was eventually consolidated with four similar cases including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka , Kansas. In September of , Mose Wright took the witness stand in a Mississippi courtroom.
Magazines and newspapers ran the photo, signaling the power of shocking images as a new weapon in the generations-long struggle for black rights. In the first half of the 20th century nascent democracies collapsed in Germany, Spain and Italy. The progress seen in the late 20th century has stalled in the 21st. Freedom House reckons that was the eighth consecutive year in which global freedom declined, and that its forward march peaked around the beginning of the century. Between and the cause of democracy experienced only a few setbacks, but since there have been many.
Many nominal democracies have slid towards autocracy, maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections, but without the rights and institutions that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system. Faith in democracy flares up in moments of triumph, such as the overthrow of unpopular regimes in Cairo or Kiev, only to sputter out once again. Outside the West, democracy often advances only to collapse.
And within the West, democracy has too often become associated with debt and dysfunction at home and overreach abroad. Democracy has always had its critics, but now old doubts are being treated with renewed respect as the weaknesses of democracy in its Western strongholds, and the fragility of its influence elsewhere, have become increasingly apparent.
Why has democracy lost its forward momentum? THE two main reasons are the financial crisis of and the rise of China.
Will Dysfunctional Politics Finally End the American Century? | Chatham House
The damage the crisis did was psychological as well as financial. Governments had steadily extended entitlements over decades, allowing dangerous levels of debt to develop, and politicians came to believe that they had abolished boom-bust cycles and tamed risk.
The crisis turned the Washington consensus into a term of reproach across the emerging world. Larry Summers, of Harvard University, observes that when America was growing fastest, it doubled living standards roughly every 30 years. China has been doubling living standards roughly every decade for the past 30 years. The Chinese elite argue that their model—tight control by the Communist Party, coupled with a relentless effort to recruit talented people into its upper ranks—is more efficient than democracy and less susceptible to gridlock.
The political leadership changes every decade or so, and there is a constant supply of fresh talent as party cadres are promoted based on their ability to hit targets. Many Chinese are prepared to put up with their system if it delivers growth.
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Some Chinese intellectuals have become positively boastful. Zhang Weiwei of Fudan University argues that democracy is destroying the West, and particularly America, because it institutionalises gridlock, trivialises decision-making and throws up second-rate presidents like George Bush junior. The first great setback was in Russia. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in the democratisation of the old Soviet Union seemed inevitable. In the s Russia took a few drunken steps in that direction under Boris Yeltsin.
But at the end of he resigned and handed power to Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who has since been both prime minister and president twice. This postmodern tsar has destroyed the substance of democracy in Russia, muzzling the press and imprisoning his opponents, while preserving the show—everyone can vote, so long as Mr Putin wins. Autocratic leaders in Venezuela, Ukraine, Argentina and elsewhere have followed suit, perpetuating a perverted simulacrum of democracy rather than doing away with it altogether, and thus discrediting it further.
The next big setback was the Iraq war. This was more than mere opportunism: Mr Bush sincerely believed that the Middle East would remain a breeding ground for terrorism so long as it was dominated by dictators. But it did the democratic cause great harm. Left-wingers regarded it as proof that democracy was just a figleaf for American imperialism.
And disillusioned neoconservatives such as Francis Fukuyama, an American political scientist, saw it as proof that democracy cannot put down roots in stony ground. A third serious setback was Egypt. But the euphoria soon turned to despair. Mr Morsi treated democracy as a winner-takes-all system, packing the state with Brothers, granting himself almost unlimited powers and creating an upper house with a permanent Islamic majority. Along with war in Syria and anarchy in Libya, this has dashed the hope that the Arab spring would lead to a flowering of democracy across the Middle East.
Meanwhile some recent recruits to the democratic camp have lost their lustre. Since the introduction of democracy in South Africa has been ruled by the same party, the African National Congress, which has become progressively more self-serving. Turkey, which once seemed to combine moderate Islam with prosperity and democracy, is descending into corruption and autocracy.
In Bangladesh, Thailand and Cambodia, opposition parties have boycotted recent elections or refused to accept their results. All this has demonstrated that building the institutions needed to sustain democracy is very slow work indeed, and has dispelled the once-popular notion that democracy will blossom rapidly and spontaneously once the seed is planted.
Western countries almost all extended the right to vote long after the establishment of sophisticated political systems, with powerful civil services and entrenched constitutional rights, in societies that cherished the notions of individual rights and independent judiciaries.
Yet in recent years the very institutions that are meant to provide models for new democracies have come to seem outdated and dysfunctional in established ones. The United States has become a byword for gridlock, so obsessed with partisan point-scoring that it has come to the verge of defaulting on its debts twice in the past two years. Its democracy is also corrupted by gerrymandering, the practice of drawing constituency boundaries to entrench the power of incumbents.
This encourages extremism, because politicians have to appeal only to the party faithful, and in effect disenfranchises large numbers of voters. And money talks louder than ever in American politics.
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Thousands of lobbyists more than 20 for every member of Congress add to the length and complexity of legislation, the better to smuggle in special privileges. All this creates the impression that American democracy is for sale and that the rich have more power than the poor, even as lobbyists and donors insist that political expenditure is an exercise in free speech. Nor is the EU a paragon of democracy. The decision to introduce the euro in was taken largely by technocrats; only two countries, Denmark and Sweden, held referendums on the matter both said no.
Efforts to win popular approval for the Lisbon Treaty, which consolidated power in Brussels, were abandoned when people started voting the wrong way.
During the darkest days of the euro crisis the euro-elite forced Italy and Greece to replace democratically elected leaders with technocrats. A project designed to tame the beast of European populism is instead poking it back into life. EVEN in its heartland, democracy is clearly suffering from serious structural problems, rather than a few isolated ailments. Since the dawn of the modern democratic era in the late 19th century, democracy has expressed itself through nation-states and national parliaments.
People elect representatives who pull the levers of national power for a fixed period. But this arrangement is now under assault from both above and below. From above, globalisation has changed national politics profoundly. National politicians have surrendered ever more power, for example over trade and financial flows, to global markets and supranational bodies, and may thus find that they are unable to keep promises they have made to voters.
International organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the European Union have extended their influence. There is a compelling logic to much of this: how can a single country deal with problems like climate change or tax evasion? National politicians have also responded to globalisation by limiting their discretion and handing power to unelected technocrats in some areas.