Recommended reading, watching, listening

The basics

The Constitution of the United States

Any copy will do.  Available online or in pamphlet form.

The Federalist Papers in Modern Language - Edited by Mary E. Webster

The Federalist Papers were written to explain the new U.S. Constitution while it was being considered for ratification.  The papers are generally considered to be the best contemporary explanation of the new constitution.  This book translates the papers to modern English and references the papers to the text of the constitution.  This is a great resource for understanding the founding fathers' thinking.

Current issues 

Donald Trump’s presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we’d be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang—in a revolution or military coup—but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms.

If you are interested in diving into more policy-specific issues, here are a couple of good sources.
Blog that seeks to clarify the big issues and boil them down to their essentials.

Ultimate Guide to the 2020 Election
This is a book produced by looking at the big issues.  Fixing our political system is one of its chapters, aligned with some of the issues we tackle at Our Imperfect Union.

Money in politics

We The Corporations by Adam Winkler is an excellent history of Supreme Court cases through which artificial entities have gradually expanded their "rights".  It has an excellent chapter 10 explaining how the court’s conservative wing changed Citizens United from a narrow opinion about corporate funding for “Hilary the Movie” to a blockbuster opinion opening the floodgates to corporate spending in politics.

Dark Money by Jane Mayer exposes the history of behind-the-scenes money influencing politics and the damage it can do.  Warning:  Not for the faint-hearted.  You will get angry.

The Center for Responsive Politics ( has a wealth of information about which people and organizations are donating and spending political funds.

 Political polarization

Compromise in and Age of Party Polarization investigates Americans' support of political compromise and how people balance partisan desires against principled thinking about democratic norms.  It utilizes a multi-method approach that combines survey evidence and numerous innovative survey experiments and Challenges conventional wisdom about the partisan demands of the electorate.   (Note:  I haven't read this book but it appears to be a thoughtful approach to an important topic.)

Note: Links are provided for your convenience.  Our Imperfect Union does not receive any compensation for these recommendations nor endorses any companies offering these products.


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