WGBH Forum Network Lectures

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Party and Ideology

Anyone who has watched the bitter competition between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress in recent years, or the fight to win the Republican nomination for President this year, might be wondering how to explain the current political party system in the United States. It looks like a period of deep ideological cleavages between the parties, and strict enforcement of some form of ideological correctness at least in one of them. Yet for decades or even centuries, scholars of politics have argued that ideological divisions were relatively weak in U.S. elections and legislative process. What is happening, and what has happened? Professor John Zaller of UCLA is one of the leading scholars of both political parties and public opinion in the country and here he explores these questions central to understanding the current state of American politics.

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Jodi Kantor: The Obamas

Jodi Kantor, New York Times correspondent, discusses The Obamas, her portrait of the first couple, and addresses the recent media attention and controversy around the book. In The Obamas, Jodi Kantor takes the reader inside the White House as the Obamas try to grapple with their new roles, change the country, raise children, maintain friendships, and figure out what it means to be the first black President and First Lady.

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Party and Ideology

Anyone who has watched the bitter competition between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress in recent years, or the fight to win the Republican nomination for President this year, might be wondering how to explain the current political party system in the United States. It looks like a period of deep ideological cleavages between the parties, and strict enforcement of some form of ideological correctness at least in one of them. Yet for decades or even centuries, scholars of politics have argued that ideological divisions were relatively weak in U.S. elections and legislative process. What is happening, and what has happened? Professor John Zaller of UCLA is one of the leading scholars of both political parties and public opinion in the country and here he explores these questions central to understanding the current state of American politics.

Listen

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Paul Krugman: End This Depression Now!

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize–winning economist and New York Times columnist discusses his latest book, "End This Depression Now!" The Great Recession is more than four years old—and counting. Yet, as Paul Krugman points out, "Nations rich in resources, talent, and knowledge—all the ingredients for prosperity and a decent standard of living for all—remain in a state of intense pain." How bad have things gotten? How did the U.S. get stuck in what Krugman argues can only be called a depression? And above all, how do we free ourselves? Krugman pursues these questions, and declares that a strong recovery is just one step away, if our leaders can find the "intellectual clarity and political will" to end this depression now.

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Globalization of Labor: Is a Race to the Bottom Inevitable?

Out-sourcing. Off-shoring. Even before the Great Recession of 2008 pushed unemployment rates into double digits, Americans worried that traditional jobs were disappearing. Economist Robert Pollin addresses questions for American workers raised by the globalization of labor. How has globalization of the labor market affected American employment patterns? Is globalization responsible for the loss of domestic jobs that pay middle class wages? How can the United States respond to the challenges created by the “globalization of labor?” What can individual workers do to ensure their own employment security? Is a race to the bottom inevitable?

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Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Daron Acemoglu discusses his book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty at the Harvard Bookstore. Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine? Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Acemoglu argues that none of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

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The Future of the Post Office

The American postal service has an impressive history, but an uncertain future. Older than the Constitution, it was a wellspring of American democracy and a catalyst for the creation of a nationwide market for information and goods. Today, however, its once indispensable role in fostering civic discourse and facilitating personal communications has been challenged by the Internet and mobile telephony. How is the post office coping? What are its prospects in the digital age? An MIT Communications Forum panel discusses.

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Party and Ideology

Anyone who has watched the bitter competition between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress in recent years, or the fight to win the Republican nomination for President this year, might be wondering how to explain the current political party system in the United States. It looks like a period of deep ideological cleavages between the parties, and strict enforcement of some form of ideological correctness at least in one of them. Yet for decades or even centuries, scholars of politics have argued that ideological divisions were relatively weak in U.S. elections and legislative process. What is happening, and what has happened? Professor John Zaller of UCLA is one of the leading scholars of both political parties and public opinion in the country and here he explores these questions central to understanding the current state of American politics.

Listen

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Civility and Culture

Are calls for civility a distraction that marginalizes the individual and inhibits an honest examination of absolutes? Does the practice of civility evolve differently in different cultural experiences? What happens to civil discourse when ordinary political conversation becomes shrouded in the sacred? Can civil discourse lead zealots to reconciliation and mutual respect? This panel examines fundamental questions about the value of civility across cultures. Featuring Diana Eck, Mark Lilla, Ilan Stavans, and Tom Ashbrook.

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Evangelicals in the Electorate

How are Evangelical Christians impacting politics in the U.S.? Although some dismiss Evangelical Christians as zealots with uncommon social values and little regard for science, others argue that they are misunderstood. This panel explores this group that has become a powerful voting bloc in the U.S. John C. Green, senior research advisor at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, presents empirical data on what evangelicals actually believe based on surveys of clergy and parishioners. Authors of The Anointed, Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens, provide an analysis of intellectual authority within this group and examine themes ranging from Creationism to messaging. Ford Hall Forum Board member and former religion reporter for the Boston Herald Eric Convey converses with these sociological researchers to predict how Evangelical Christians’ values will translate into civic action.

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