Karen Tumulty on “America’s Divided Politics: A Journalist’s Perspective”

Karen Tumulty's seminars will be held on Thursdays at 12:30pm.
Lunch will be provided.

All IOP Pritzker Fellows Seminars will be held in the IOP Living Room unless otherwise noted. 
All seminars are students only and closed to press/off the record.


Red. Blue. Left. Right. Coastal elitism. Heartland values. A vanishing center. Our politics has become more partisan — tribal, even — than at any time in living memory. We will start each session looking at the news of the week in this turbulent time, when each day seems to bring a strange new development, and new declarations that “this is not normal.” But then we will delve into the why of it. How did we get here, and what does it mean for the country’s ability to solve its problems? Is there any way back? An overview of the forces at work — among them, values, media, economics.

Session 1 (September 28): Capitol Hill: Staring into the Abyss | RSVP

Capitol Hill is the best place to see what has gone wrong. Our elected representatives are a reflection of America itself, and Congress is as divided along political lines as it has been at any point since the late 1800s. A decade ago, political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann labeled it the “broken branch.” Those days look rosy compared to the dysfunction now.

Special Guest (via Skype): Norman Ornstein, co-author of the new book, “One Nation Under Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported”

Session 2 (October 5): Is there any way back? | RSVP

Politicians used to strive for crossover appeal across party lines. The old saying had it that politics was about addition, not subtraction. Now, both sides see playing to the most dogmatic elements of their bases as the route to victory. Are the politics of compromise and inclusion extinct? Or are they exactly what the country hungers for?

Special Guest: Political consultant John Weaver, who was chief strategist for Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000 and 2008, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s in 2016.

Session 3 (October 12): Finding the facts in a post-truth environment | RSVP

A look at the hashtagization of our national discourse. We have reached the point where the two sides of our great political divide no longer agree even on what the facts are. Where does that leave the news media? The internet has fueled the growth of #fakenews (real and imagined), but it has also given reporters new tools.

Special Guest: Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

Session 4 (October 19): Follow the Money | RSVP

Money, from Watergate to McCain-Feingold to Citizens United. To what degree has unlimited and unregulated money contributed to the erosion of the political parties and the deepening political divisions in America? 

Special Guest: McClatchy Investigative Editor Viveca Novak, who was previously editorial and communications director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Session 5 (October 26): The Republican Party. Where it’s been and where it’s going. | RSVP

Donald Trump got elected with a declaration of war on his own party. Now, the grassroots is going one way and the establishment another, leaving the GOP with an epic identity crisis. And worse, little by way of accomplishments. What does this say for the future of a party that controls all the levers of power in Washington, but cannot seem to get anything done? And what does it even mean to be a Republican these days?

Special Guest (via Skype): Republican political consultant Katie Packer Beeson, deputy campaign manager for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012; founder of the anti-Trump super PAC Our Principles PAC in 2016.

Session 6 (November 2): The Democratic Party. Where it’s been and where it’s going. | RSVP

The Democrats are completely shut out of power in Washington, and have been decimated on the state and local level. Is there a way back from irrelevance?

Special Guest (via Skype): Democratic political consultant Tad Devine. Chief strategist for Bernie Sanders in 2016, and before that a top adviser to the presidential campaigns of Michael Dukakis in 1988, Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

Session 7 (November 9): Third Party Politics | RSVP

Is a third party the answer, and will it ever happen? History suggests they are little more than sideshows, but it may be time to consider another option to a broken two-party system.

Session 8 (November 16): Policymaking in a divided America | RSVP

Has the country lost its ability to solve its problems? A look at where things stand on health care reform, tax reform and other major agenda items. 

Special Guest: Jake Sullivan