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TCD Annual Public Lecture in American History “Democracy and Money in America: A Historical Perspective on the Election of 2012”

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Nov 05, 2012

The presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will easily be the most expensive in history.  The Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 decision in the “Citizens United” case overturned important campaign finance regulations.  Now individual and corporate donors can make unlimited financial contributions to electoral campaigns through “Super Pacs,” which have funded countless advertisements this election cycle.  

How has money affected the American democratic process?  Why have attempts to restrict its influence failed?  And how did we get to where we are today?

Gary Gerstle addressed these questions in his public lecture, “Democracy and Money in America: A Historical Perspective on the Election of 2012,” last week in the Synge Theater in the Arts Building at Trinity College.  This lecture by a leading scholar in American political history offered a historical account of money in American politics from the American Revolution to the present day.  Gerstle explained why elections in America are so long, labor intensive, expensive, and provide frequent opportunities for people with money to influence politics.  

Gerstle is the James G. Stahlman Professor of American History and Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  This year, he is the Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford University.  He is the author of several major books and articles, including the prize-winning American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton University Press, 2001).

Gerstle’s lecture was the second in a series of annual lectures in American history funded by a grant from the University of Dublin Fund, which receives contributions from Trinity alumni based in the U.S.  It is also sponsored by the School of Histories and Humanities at Trinity.  The series is organized by Dr. Daniel Geary, the Mark Pigott Assistant Professor of American History.  The first lecture in the series, “Barack Obama and the American Democratic Tradition” was delivered by James Kloppenberg of Harvard University in March, 2011.

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| | Last updated: November 5, 2012