History Department
History Department

Noted historian to speak on flaws in American electoral system

Fri, September 5, 2008

Charles L. Zelden, professor of history at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, will explore problems with American electoral procedures in a lecture entitled “The Unlearned Lessons of 2000: Bush v. Gore and the Hidden Crisis of American Democracy.” The event will take place at 4:30 p.m. in Mezes (MEZ), Room 1.306.

The lecture will draw on Zelden’s landmark study, Bush v. Gore: Exposing the Hidden Crisis in American Democracy (University of Kansas Press, 2008), which has received glowing praise from scholars for its non-partisan fairness, its mastery of the complexities of the American electoral system, and its authoritative discussion of the Supreme Court case that resulted in George W. Bush’s victory in the 2000 election. All in all, in the words of Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, Zelden’s book is “a smart, judicious analysis that stands as the seminal study of the 2000 U.S. president election and its contested results.”

Zelden’s lecture promises to review the controversies of the Gore-Bush race and appeal for greater attention to problems that received intense scrutiny in late 2000 and early 2001, only to fade back into obscurity once the turmoil had passed.

“The 2000 presidential election and what it produced was a clear warning about the failures within America’s political institutions,” Zelden says. “It warned of threats attacking America’s democratic institutions – threats that lay not in foreign foes or even technological breakdowns, but in Americans’ own flawed sense of civic pride, their self-satisfied belief that their electoral system, like the Constitution itself, was ‘a machine that would go of itself,’ and most of all, the overarching partisan emotions, hopes, and dreams which motivated modern American politics. It warned, in other words, of just how old and creaky the electoral system was, and of its potential for future collapse and failure.”

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