Nick Lemann is the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a former New Yorker staff writer. While at Harvard – where he graduated in 1976 – Lemann served as President of the Crimson. He has worked as a reporter and editor at The Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post, focusing primarily on national affairs.
Lemann is the author of The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, about the SAT, and most recently, Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, about the failure of Reconstruction. At Columbia, where he was hired as Dean of the Journalism School in 2003, Lemann implemented a two-year curriculum and has focused on teaching alternative journalistic mediums in the Internet age.
Question: Are two parties enough?
Nicholas Lemann: You know in my native Southland, we had a saying. You know, “If frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their ass so much.” So it’s kind of like that. It would be great to have more than two parties. You know it’s very easy to sit here and say, “No. Two parties aren’t enough. We must have three parties or four parties.” Fine, but we’re not going to. So that’s . . . You know that should be the caveat on my answer. I just . . . I am constantly amazed by how sort of robust and survivable the two major parties are; and how little any meaningful challenge of them ever gets going. And so I would be immensely surprised if when my kids are my age, there actually are three or four major parties.