Program 250 • 29 mins


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We visit with Gordon S. Wood, one of the most distinguished historians of the United States, author of rich histories of the American Revolution period and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He recounts how the Founders were concerned about the possibility that rabble-rousers would rise up and hijack the new nation they were establishing. So they framed a Constitution that would establish a system of checks and balances to moderate the passions of democracy, and prevent a majority from trampling the rights of minorities. Prof. Wood also discusses the emergence of European demagogues in Germany and Italy that led to World War II. In addition, we cover the role of social media in generating an unfiltered discourse that permits demagogues today to make direct contact with a large constituency.

We acquired a faith in democracy, the kind of faith that Jefferson had, that—so suddenly it wasn’t just a form of government. It became a faith. Something we just believed in instinctively. And that comes out of the Revolution, and for the next 250 years we’ve been living that faith. But I think if you go back through history you’ll find that many people had misgivings about that. That the people aren’t always right… And that they can end up doing things that are regrettable.”

—Gordon S. Wood, Professor Emeritus at Brown University


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