A Sense of Civic Faith
by Matthew Pinsker, Brian C. Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History and associate professor of history
Like any good historian, I make an effort in the classroom to keep the present out of things—especially heated political arguments. Most of my time is spent helping students realize the past is a different place.
Still, there are continuities with all of the changes, and we talk about those as well. That's the primary goal of my fall course, History of U.S. Elections. In effect, we are investigating how we got here—how the Constitutional rules, campaign process and American political culture has evolved over a series of pivotal elections into what has now become the ugly collision that is Trump vs. Clinton.
I don't want students to take sides in my class, but rather to feel more comfortable understanding how each side—or all sides in this case—see themselves within the evolving spectrum of American history. And, along the way, I'm hoping—quietly—to instill a sense of civic faith, to ensure that everybody feels that our representative system—despite all of its flaws—has the capacity to endure and adapt to the needs of our age.