Domestic politics

Why the Civil War is still important to Americans: An interview with David W. Blight

Yale University Professor David W. Blight is an expert on the US Civil War. He discusses how Americans differ in their perception of the war and whether this will change in the presence of the first African-American president, Barack Obama. Professor Blight was a guest of the US Studies Centre and the University of Sydney's History Department.

Keywords: Civil War; racial politics; African-American history; Barack Obama 


Peter Katzenstein on healthcare, anti-Americanism and soft power

Renowned political scientist Peter Katzenstein gives an analysis of how the controversial healthcare reform package passed in the US will affect how the US views itself. Professor Katzenstein goes on to discuss anti-Americanism over the past decade and the considerable "soft power" that America continues to wield.

Keywords: Obamacare; Affordable Care Act; healthcare reform; anti-Americanism; soft power


Congress chose not to act

In this interview Princeton University Professor Thomas Romer explains why Congress prevented existing banking regulations from being applied to the new high-risk financial innovations of the ‘90s and 2000s. He also gives his opinion on the effectiveness of the federal government’s controversial ‘bail out’ of the big banks. Professor Romer was recently at the US Studies Centre working on an investigation into the political foundations of the Global Financial Crisis.

Keywords: Congress; legislature; financial regulations; GFC


The Latino vote and Arizona's controversial immigration law

Chair of Chicano Studies at Stanford University, Professor Gary Segura, discusses the political impact of America's growing Latin American (Latino) population. He says that the Latino vote was critical in Barack Obama's election victory in 2008. Additionally Professor Segura considers how much Latinos identify with other population groups, and gives his insight into the political implications of the immigration law recently made in Arizona that has been denounced by President Obama.

Keywords: Latino vote; Hispanic vote; ethnic politics; Barack Obama; elections; immigration; Arizona


Social fallout from America's prison boom

Since the 1970s America's prison population has increased massively, which has lead to a coining of the phrase "mass incarceration" to describe the phenomenon. Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, is a leading expert on the prison boom in the US and discusses in this interview how mass incarceration is affecting American society and in particular how it increases racial inequality. Professor Western, originally from Australia, also draws a parallel with the racial disparity apparent in Australia's prisons.

Keywords:incarceration rates; prison boom; criminal justice system; racial inequality; African-Americans


Glenn Loury on racial inequality in the US

Despite the successes of the civil rights movement and the election of Barack Obama as America's first black President, leading US public intellectual from Brown University, Glenn Loury, says that racial inequalities persist and show no signs of going away anytime soon. In this interview Professor Loury explains the long term effects of unemployment amongst low educated African Americans and other minorities, and argues for geographically targeted measures to address the problems in poor communities in many of America's large cities.

Keywords: Barack Obama; African-Americans; racial inequality; unemployment; poverty; Civil Rights movement


Obama, attitudes toward race and the Tea Party movement

In this interview Harvard University's Professor of African American Studies, Jennifer Hochschild, considers the impact that the Obama presidency is having on racial attitudes in America. As part of this discussion, she notes that the impact of geography on attitudes towards race is not talked about as much as it should be. Turning to the controversy surrounding the Tea Party movement, Professor Hochschild argues it is very difficult to tease out racial hostility as an independent factor motivating their cause.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Tea Party; racial politics; racial inequality; elections; African Americans


Top secret leaks, executive power and democracy

Judith Ehrlich co-directed the Academy Award nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man In America which tells the story of US government official Daniel Ellsberg's leak of classified information about five Presidents' involvement in the Vietnam War. Known as the "Pentagon Papers", Ehrlich says that the leak changed the relationship between US citizens and their government. In this interview Ehrlich also discusses the continued significance of leaks and how executive power remains highly concentrated in the Obama administration.

Keywords: Vietnam War; Daniel Ellsberg; Pentagon Papers; whistleblowing; Barack Obama; Wikileaks


Obama: The exception to prove the rule?

Despite claims to the contrary, Barack Obama's presidency does not herald a post-racial America or a new black politics, according to US Studies Centre visitor, African-American cultural expert, Professor Kevin Gaines. Gaines is the Director of the Center for Afro-American and African Studies, and Professor of History at the University of Michigan and in this interview he discusses the topic of Barack Obama and African American politics.

Keywords: post-racial; racial politics; Barack Obama; African-Americans; racial inequality


US intelligence since 9/11 and Wikileaks

Amy Zegart is a recognised voice on intelligence reform in the US. In 1999 she wrote Flawed By Design, a book examining the weaknesses in America's national security agencies. Her award winning 2007 work Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI and the Origins of 9/11 was the culmination of five years of research. In this interview Zegart notes that while there have been some improvements since 9/11, reform of the US intelligence community is stalling in important areas. Zegart also discusses the recent Wikileaks controversy and says that the news from it is not all bad for America's national security system.

Keywords: CIA; NSA; FBI; intelligence; 9/11; Wikileaks; intelligence reform; national security


Robert Putnam on America's social fabric and meeting Gaddafi

As one of the best known social scientists of the last half century, Professor Robert Putnam has performed research into American society and how it has evolved over recent decades. In this interview he discusses his latest book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, as well as explaining how levels of connection and trust among people (known as social capital) have far reaching implications on how a nation like America handles terrorist attacks, financial crises and presidential elections. Professor Putnam also recounts his experience of meeting Colonel Gaddafi in the Libyan desert and what it told him about the now infamous dictator.

Keywords: social capital; trust; tolerance; Gaddafi


Ian Shapiro on US democracy, inequality and foreign policy

Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University and visitor to the US Studies Centre, Professor Ian Shapiro is one of America's foremost political scientists and speakers. In this interview, he discusses the prospect of a second global financial crisis and the threat that both Afghanistan and Iran pose to the foreign policy goals of the US. He begins by discussing inequality in America and how money plays a crucial role in determining US presidents and their policies.

Keywords: GFC; US foreign policy; Middle East; Iran; income inequality; campaigning; financing


Professor Jack Rakove on the lasting importance of the US Constitution

Pulitzer Prize winning historian Professor Jack Rakove discusses the importance of the US Constitution in contemporary American life. Why do Americans unite so strongly around this document and what do fights about its meaning say about American national cohesion? He begins by discussing the lasting significance of Founding Father James Madison.

Keywords: Constitution; James Madison; originalists; pragmatists;


Professor Lawrence Gostin on Obamacare

With Barack Obama's landmark healthcare legislation now under deliberation in the Supreme Court, Jonathan Bradley speaks to Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University Lawrence Gostin about the law. Is it constitutional? Will the Supreme Court uphold it? And is this the end of healthcare reform in America?

Keywords: Obamacare; Affordable Care Act; Constitution; Supreme Court; healthcare reform


Gary Segura on the Hispanic vote

In this interview, Centre guest Gary Segura discusses the importance of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 elections and how the increasingly anti-immigration reform Republican party can win them back. He begins by discussing his latest research which shows that racial and religious intolerance can often lead low-income earners to vote against their own economic interests. Professor Segura was in Sydney for the US Studies Centre's Why Leaders Can't Lead conference.

Keywords: Latino vote; Hispanic vote; ethnic politics; Obama; elections; immigration; GOP; racial politics


E. Scott Adler on the challenges of US Congress

In this interview, professor of political science at the University of Colorado E. Scott Adler discusses the difficulties facing leaders attempting to pursue their agendas in divided and entrenched institutions such as the US Congress. He begins by discussing his latest research which compares college football teams to Congressional groups. Professor Adler was in Sydney for the US Studies Centre's Why Leaders Can't Lead conference.

Keywords: Congress; president; separation of powers; checks and balances; legislature; executive; leadership


Kenneth Shepsle on what makes a great leader

Is great leadership still possible? In this interview, the George D. Markham professor of government at Harvard, Kenneth Shepsle discusses the challenges that face leaders attempting to manage broad coalitions while maintaining a united front. He begins by describing his research into why people often don't follow leaders. Professor Shepsle was in Sydney for the US Studies Centre's Why Leaders Can't Lead conference.

Keywords: leadership; president; coalition


Sunshine Hillygus on partisanship in 2012

In this interview, associate professor of political science at Duke University Sunshine Hillygus discusses how partisanship on issues such as healthcare and the economy can make it hard to shift public opinion and may lead to reduced voter turnout in 2012. She begins by discussing how partisan voters can take different messages from the same information. Professor Hillygus was a speaker at the US Studies Centre's Why Leaders Can't Lead conference.

Keywords: healthcare; economy; public opinion; elections; turnout; partisanship; leadership


Thomas Schwartz on the legacy of Kissinger

In this interview, professor of history at Vanderbilt University Thomas Schwartz discusses his latest work on the Nixon-Kissinger revolution in foreign policy. Professor Schwartz suggests that Kissinger's legacy continues to be felt in the foreign policy stances of President Obama and Mitt Romney. He begins by discussing the importance of the Nixon-Kissinger relationship, not just in foreign policy but also in how we perceive the role of the president.

Keywords: Richard Nixon; Henry Kissinger; US foreign policy; Cold War; Barack Obama; Mitt Romney; president


Donald Green on the art of modern elections

In this interview, Professor of political science at Columbia University and Centre guest Donald Green talks about the intricacies of modern campaigning, from financing to online data gathering. With a low turnout expected and many voters already saying they have already made up their minds, how much will the campaigns matter? He begins by explaining microtargeting in the 2012 campaign.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Mitt Romney; elections; campaigning; voters; turnout; financing; micro-targeting; big data


Arne Kalleberg on America's jobs problem

In this interview, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill Arne Kalleberg discusses the problems facing America's job market and how to address them. He begins by discussing the findings of his book Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarised and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s to 2000s.

Keywords: unemployment; income inequality; GFC


William Galston on polarisation and lessons from Australia

In this excerpt from an interview with Jim Fallows appearing in the upcoming November issue of American Review, Brookings fellow and director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at University of Maryland, College Park, William Galston discusses increased political polarisation in the US and its potential remedies. What lessons can America learn from Australia?

Keywords: Partisanship; polarization; elections


Former Prime Minister John Howard on gun control

In this interview, former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard discusses the vexed issue of gun control in the US. Conducted by research associate and American Review editor Tom Switzer, Mr Howard begins by discussing his New York Times opinion piece, in which he offers his own experience of gun law reform as a potential model for action.

Keywords: gun control; gun law reform; Constitution


Sieglinde Lemke on poverty and inequality in America

In this interview, professor of American and Cultural Studies at the University of Freiburg and 2013-14 Centre visiting fellow Sieglinde Lemke discusses the prevalence, politics and representaton of poverty in America. She begins by discussing her forthcoming book PrecarioUS, which she has been researching during her fellowship, and how the term can be applied to America's lower and middle classes.

Keywords: poverty; income inequality; precariat; GFC


Sanford Schram on Social Impact Bonds

In this interview, professor of political science and public policy at Hunter College at the City University of New York and 2014 Centre visiting fellow Sanford Schram, discusses an emerging funding model for social welfare policy known as Social Impact Bonds. He begins by describing how these public-private partnerships (PPPs) work and what they could mean for the future of social welfare.

Keywords: welfare policy; public-private partnership; welfare reform


Tom Brunell on partisan redistricting in the US

In this interview, professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas and 2014 Centre visiting fellow Tom Brunell discusses the challenges of and potential solutions to partisan redistricting in the US. He begins by explaining how gerrymandering has become synonymous with redistricting and the undefined legal status of the process.

Keywords: redistricting; gerrymandering; partisanship; elections; federalism


Barry Jackson on the Republican caucus and 2016 election

Former chief of staff to House Speaker John Boehner and key advisor to President George W. Bush Barry Jackson looks at the Republican field in 2016 and grades the performance of the Republicans in Congress.

Keywords: GOP; Congress; legislature; elections; president; candidates; forecasting


How powerful are US state governors?

Lecturer Sarah Graham speaks with Thad Kousser, the 2015 Fulbright Flinders University Distinguished Chair in American Political Science, about the powers of state governors in the US political system. Kousser visited the Centre in May.

Keywords: governors; federalism; state government


Anthony Podesta talks campaigns and lobbying

Anthony Podesta, former advisor to President Bill Clinton and founder and chairman of government relations and public relations firm The Podesta Group, talks to us about lobbying, the 2016 presidential race, and campaign fundraising in this video interview.

Keywords: lobbying; president; elections; campaigning; financing