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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Red and Blue Nation?

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

photo of panelists

Red and Blue Nation? Political Polarization in America

Date: March 29, 2007
Location: Gasson Hall 305, Boston College
Time: 4:45-6:15 PM


William Galston, Brookings Institution & University of Maryland
Hahrie Han, Wellesley College
Marc Landy, Boston College
Alan Wolfe, Boston College

The recent book Red and Blue Nation? Characteristics and Causes of America's Polarized Politics, edited by Pietro S. Nivola and David W. Brady (Brookings Institution Press and the Hoover Institution, 2006), investigates what analysts and pundits increasingly perceive as a widening gulf between "red states" and "blue states." Advocates of this view argue that America's polarized politics pose fundamental dangers for democratic and accountable government, and that heightened partisanship degrades congressional deliberation and threatens the integrity of societal institutions from the courts to the media. Yet as Red and Blue Nation demonstrates, the research supporting this perception is scattered and difficult to interpret. How deep do the country's political divisions actually run? Are they truly wreaking havoc upon the social fabric? How severe is the "culture war"? Has America become a house divided? Our panelists will consider the problems underlying this perplexing issue from diverse perspectives.

headshot of Galston

William Galston is Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and College Park Professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. He is a political theorist who both studies and participates in American politics and domestic policy. His expertise includes American political thought, institutions, and processes; contemporary political and social philosophy; history of political thought; and U.S. domestic policy. Galston was Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy during the first Clinton Administration and Executive Director of the National Commission on Civic Renewal, which was chaired by Sam Nunn and William Bennett. His books include Public Matters: Essays on Politics, Policy and Religion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); The Practice of Liberal Pluralism (Cambridge, 2004); and Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice (Cambridge, 2002).

photo of Hahrie Han

Hahrie C. Han is the Sidney R. Knafel Assistant Professor of Social Sciences in the Department of Political Science at Wellesley College. Han received her Ph.D. in American Politics from Stanford University and her B.A. in American History and Literature from Harvard University. She served as a National Issues and Policy Advisor to Senator Bill Bradley's presidential campaign in 1999-2000, where she focused on issues related to the environment, campaign finance reform, race relations, and agriculture. She also served as a Research Associate with the National Issues Project in Washington D.C from 1997-1999. Han's principal research interests focus on political participation, congressional elections, and the role of organized interests in American politics. She is currently working on a book examining the sources of people's motivation to participate in politics and the implications this has for institutions of democracy.

headshot of Marc Landy

Marc Landy is Professor of Political Science and Faculty Chair of the Irish Institute at Boston College. In addition to instructing Boston College students, he regularly teaches public officials from Ireland and Northern Ireland about American politics through a series of executive programs run by the Irish Institute. He has written two books with Sidney Milkis, American Government: Balancing Democracy and Rights (McGraw Hill, 2003); and Presidential Greatness (Kansas, 2000). He co-edited Seeking the Center: Politics and Policymaking at the New Century with Martin Levin and Martin Shapiro (Georgetown, 2001) and The New Politics of Public Policy with Martin Levin (Johns Hopkins, 1995).