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Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He has taught at Yale since 1982. Carter is known for his legal and social policy[…]

How did the “boomers” approach democracy?

Question: How has Washington changed?

Stephen Carter: I think that our parents’ generation, for whom democracy is under threat – under threat from the Great Depression and under threat from fascism – they used democracy better. They used democracy better. I had lunch a few years ago with a retiring politician who was a very senior politician, and he talked about when he was first coming along in Washington. And he said when he was coming along in the ‘60s, that people could vehemently disagree on the floor of the House of Representatives one day, and that night go out to dinner with each other’s families and have a good time. Because he said they had been through so much together – the war, the Depression and other things – they understood their commonality across their differences. But, he said, for them, this new crowd . . . He said the new crowd – and he meant Democrats and Republicans alike . . . for the new crowd it’s personal. “They generally don’t like each other,” and that was how he put it. And that’s true of a lot of people today; that lacking the commonalities . . . having had luxury, therefore lacking common experiences, lacking a common struggle, it’s very easy for us to decide there’s something wrong with people and disagree with them when we never had to experience our human commonalities.

Recorded on: 7/25/07