from the world's big
Two Party System: Is There Room for a Third Party in American Politics?
Princeton professor Sean Wilentz explains why America has such a staunch two-party system, which was never part of the Framers' plan.
Sean Wilentz is one of the nation’s most prominent historians. His books and commentary on music, politics, and the arts have gained a wide reputation for their force, originality, and elegance. He is currently the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1979.
Wilentz’s historical scholarship has concentrated on the political and social history of the United States from the American Revolution to recent times. His best-known books of history are: The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (2005), winner of the Bancroft Prize among other honors, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 (2008). His latest book, The Politicians & The Egalitarians (2016) traces the long history of anti-partisan and egalitarian sentiment in American political culture.
Wilentz’s writings on music have focused on folk traditions and contemporary rock and roll, especially the work of Bob Dylan. His liner notes for Dylan’s album, The Bootleg Series, Volume 6, Bob Dylan Live, 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall were honored with a Grammy® nomination for musical commentary. Since 2001, he has served as historian-in-residence at Dylan’s official Website, www.bobdylan.com. In September 2010, Doubleday published Wilentz’s new book, Bob Dylan in America.
Sean Wilentz: The two party system is inevitable in America. The framers designed a constitution that they thought would be without political parties. They didn't like political parties. They thought political parties were divisive. They thought political parties would ruin the commonwealth as they saw it. They didn't like them, and yet they designed a system in which parties very quickly arose and we're never going to go away. And the reason is simple that in a country as large, as diverse with so many clashing interests as the United States it's going to become necessary to find a focus, to find a focus for your political actions. Parties have become that focus. They very quickly became that focus.
Now, the question is why don't we have a multiparty system? Why aren't we more like Italy say or even France or a European parliamentary system? Well that's the answer is that we're not a parliamentary system. Because we have a system that we do and because it's based on the idea of first past the post, in other words the person who gets the most amount of votes will win the election, they're not going to have proportional representation. If you get ten percent of the votes you're not going to get ten percent of the power you're going to get nothing. On that account then the pressure is very, very strong for there to be eventually a two party system. Third parties can come in and they can have a tremendous amount of influence in shaping the major parties, but as a great historian once said third parties are like bees, they sting and then they die. So they make their sting, but because a third-party will always almost inevitably help the party they're most unlike, as you saw with say the Nader campaign in 2000 who got elected, they have their effect but then they very quickly disappear. So I think the two parties, it's not so much that I have some metaphysical or ontological love for two parties as a thing, it's rather that's the way the American constitutional system works. Now, if you change the constitutional system, of course, that would change as well, but it's embedded in the way that our government was set up in 1787/'88 and it continues that way to this day.
If you ask one of America’s most prominent historians about the two-party system in US politics you can expect to go from zero to enlightened in just over two minutes. Thank you, Sean Wilentz.
The framers of the US Constitution did not envision or plan for America to have political parties; they didn’t like the idea of ideological clans, believing them to be divisive and damaging to the commonwealth that they were building. But not for lack of irony, the very system these framers designed was fertile soil for partisan groups to arise.
Political controversy in the 1790s, just a few years after the Constitution was signed, saw the emergence of two groups, the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party, who disagreed on the federal government powers of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. They managed to iron out their differences however, and party politics ended for a sweet decade in 1816, a period that became known as the Era of Good Feelings – no, really.
Needless to say, the good feelings have since evaporated. And although we have cooperation across the aisle and bipartisan efforts on some issues (such as unlikely allies Cory Booker and Newt Gingrich on prison reform), the two-party sentiment is stronger than ever in US politics. Third parties come and go, but they risk splitting the vote and fracturing the thin unity that spans the left-right spectrum of politicians and voters, so they tend to bubble up and recede – but not without shaping the political agenda and forcing the major parties to refine their stance on important issues.
Sean Wilentz's most recent book is 360 Sound:The Columbia Records Story.
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>