On NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast, listen to David Moss argue to Shankar Vedantam that U.S. political systems are much more resilient than Americans realize—and that conflict, however bitter it may seem, can be productive:
To all who declare that American democracy is broken—riven by partisanship, undermined by extremism, and corrupted by wealth—history offers hope. In nearly every generation since the nation’s founding, critics have made similar declarations, and yet the nation is still standing. When should we believe the doomsayers? In Democracy: A Case Study, historian David Moss adapts the case study method made famous by Harvard Business School to revitalize our conversations about governance and democracy and show how the United States has often thrived on political conflict.
Democracy’s nineteen case studies were honed in Moss’s Harvard course, which is among the institution’s most highly rated. Each one presents readers with a pivotal moment in U.S. history and raises questions facing key decision makers at the time: Should delegates to the Constitutional Convention support James Madison’s proposal for a congressional veto over state laws? Should President Lincoln resupply Fort Sumter? Should Florida lawmakers approve or reject the Equal Rights Amendment?
These vibrant cases ask readers to weigh choices and consequences, wrestle with momentous decisions, and come to their own conclusions. They provoke us to rethink which factors make the difference between constructive and destructive conflict, and they provide an opportunity to reengage the passionate debates that are crucial to a healthy society. Democracy: A Case Study invites us all to experience American history anew and come away with a deeper understanding of our democracy’s greatest strengths and vulnerabilities as well as its extraordinary resilience over time.