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Analyzing the 2018 election: Insights from MIT scholars

SHASS faculty members offer research-based perspectives with commentaries, plus a Music for the Midterms playlist, and an election book list.
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The 2018 Election Insights series includes: Research-based commentaries by MIT experts on key issues for the country; a "Music for the Midterms" playlist; and an annotated election booklist.
The 2018 Election Insights series includes: Research-based commentaries by MIT experts on key issues for the country; a "Music for the Midterms" playlist; and an annotated election booklist.

For the 2018 version of the Election Insights series, MIT humanities, arts, and social science faculty members are offering research-based perspectives on issues of importance to the country — ranging from the future of work to national security to civic discourse and the role that, as the Constitution states, "we, the people" have in the defense of democracy itself.

In addition to commentaries, the series also includes "Music for the Midterms," a lively playlist created by our music faculty, and an annotated election book list consisting of nine works selected by MIT humanities scholars for their value illuminating this moment in American history.

Please, remember to vote on or before Nov. 6.

Commentary: On civil society and the defense of democracy

"What is written in a constitution can take a nation only so far unless society is willing to act to protect it. Every constitutional design has its loopholes, and every age brings its new challenges, which even farsighted constitutional designers cannot anticipate. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the future of our much-cherished institutions depends not on others but on ourselves, and that we are all individually responsible for our institutions." —Daron Acemoglu, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics  Read more >>

Commentary: On partisan politics

"Partisan polarization is one of most important political developments of the past half-century. Of course, Democrats and Republicans have always taken divergent positions on issues ranging from slavery to internal improvements. Nevertheless, contemporary polarization differs from that of earlier eras, if only because the U.S. government directly shapes the lives of so many more people, in the U.S. and around the world." —Devin Caughey, associate professor of political science  Read more >>

Commentary: On media technology and immigration policy

"Widespread access to social media lowers the barrier for communities that have been marginalized by mass media and makes it easier for them to gain visibility and adherents. How might any of this affect the midterm elections? Here are three brief hypotheses, based on my ongoing research into the relationship between media technologies and social movements." —Sasha Costanza-Chock, associate professor of civic media Read more >>

Commentary: On democracy and civic discourse

"Elections are helpful reminders (as if we needed any) that we do not all agree. Yet, we must somehow figure out how to get along despite our disagreements. In particular, we may wonder whether, and to what extent, we should tolerate views we disagree with. In some cases, a well-functioning discursive market — a public forum of diverse views — may require us to respond to certain views with 'discursive intolerance." —Justin Khoo, associate professor of philosophy  Read more >>

Commentary: On female candidates of color

“A record number of women have filed as candidates this year, and a record number have won primaries in House and Senate races. Women of color make up one-third of the women candidates for the House, and three of four female gubernatorial nominees are women of color." —Helen Elaine Lee, professor of writing  Read more >>

Commentary: On social media and youth political engagement

"Although discussions about youth and new media tend to assume that something about the technology itself is responsible for political and social changes, in fact, the political possibilities associated with contemporary media are highly contingent upon societal power structures.” —Jennifer Light, the Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology  Read more >>

Commentary: On the U.S.-North Korea relationship

"The North Korean nuclear program is not something to be 'solved' — that window has closed — it is an issue to be managed. The good news is that the United States has a lot of experience managing the emergence of new nuclear weapons powers." —Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science  Read more >>

Commentary: On reducing gun violence

"America’s gun culture is a resilient fact of political life. Attempts to reverse the country’s appetite for firearms have largely failed, even as gun violence persists at an astonishing pace. Lately, however, a social movement to challenge gun culture has rocked politics for the first time in a generation." —John Tirman, executive director and principal research scientist in the Center for International Studies  Read more >>

Commentary: On American identity

"The stories and interpretations that different groups of Americans offer of economic changes, including the loss of manufacturing jobs and growing inequality, are central to how they understand their own social positions as well as the kinds of economic and political futures they can envision. Many Americans are now struggling for a way to understand and talk about these economic changes — changes that are also apparent in other wealthy countries but more extreme in the United States.” —Christine Walley, professor of anthropology  Read more >>

Playlist: Music for the Midterms

As America heads toward the 2018 midterm elections on Nov. 6, MIT Music faculty offer a wide-ranging playlist — from Verdi to Gershwin to Lin-Manuel Miranda — along with notes on why each work resonates with this election season. Access the playlist >>

Annotated election book list: Reading for the Midterms

As the 2018 midterms approach, MIT writers and scholars in the humanities offer a selection of nine books — along with notes on why each work is illuminating for this moment in American political history. Browse the book list >>

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