For the past 230 years, two parties have dominated the American political system: today, we call them Democrats and Republicans. We’re also one of the few (if only) countries whose political system flows from the bottom up: that is, authority ascends from local governments to a central government, ultimately resting on the electorate. The men who wrote the Constitution didn’t have much of a choice: in 1787, the states were the only game in town, but this model also fit their belief in a decentralized decision-making process. No king—or central authority—would ever tell Americans what to do. And, the best way to accomplish that was to broadly distribute authority across the political, economic, and social spheres.
Much has changed in 230 years. In 1776, the United States counted 2.5 million people living in 13 colonies scattered along the East coast. We were white, migrated from Europe, and fended for ourselves in a land of unlimited opportunity.
Today (2022), the United States is a very different place. Our population stands at 332 million people spread across a continent and the Pacific Ocean. The economic equality that largely existed in post-Revolutionary America (among whites) has been replaced by a swelling divide between the haves and have-nots. Today, non-Latino whites makes up less than 60% of the population; there are large Latino, Black and Asian minorities. Congress has faltered; the Supreme Court has become a political hotbed; and the President is swamped by the tasks placed upon him.
PT talks with former House Minority Leader and now Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, about congressional corruption, institutional concerns and the role of leadership in fostering an honest, effective government.