Election Insights 2018
Research-based perspectives from MIT


Commentaries, Music for the Midterms, and an Election Booklist

For the 2018 midterm election season, MIT SHASS faculty offer 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 "we, the people" have in the defense of democracy itself.

In addition to the commentaries, enjoy Music for the Midterms — a lively playlist created by our music community — and an annotated Election Booklist, nine works selected by MIT humanities scholars as illuminating for this moment in American history.

We hope you enjoy this Election Insights 2018 series — and that you will vote on November 6th!


Music for the Midterms

Playlist from the MIT Music community

As America heads toward the 2018 midterm elections on November 6, MIT's Music community offers a wide-ranging playlist — from Verdi to Gershwin to Lin-Manuel Miranda — along with notes on why each work resonates with this election season.


On Civil Society and the Defense of Democracy
Daron Acemoglu, Killian Professor of Economics

"What is written in a constitution can take a nation only so far unless society is willing to act to protect it. 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."


On Partisan Politics
Devin Caughey, Associate Professor of Political Science 

"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."



On Media Technology and Immigration Policy

Sasha Costanza-Chock, Associate Professor of Civic Media

"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."


On Democracy and Civic Discourse
Justin Khoo, Associate Professor of Philosophy


"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.'"


On Women Candidates of Color
Helen Elaine Lee, Professor of Writing


"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."



On Social Media and Youth Political Engagement
Jennifer Light, Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology

"Although discussions about youth and new media tend to assume that it is something about the technology itself that is responsible for political and social changes, the political possibilities associated with contemporary media are highly contingent upon societal power structures."


On the U.S. / North Korea Relationship
Vipin Narang, Associate Professor of Political Science

"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."


On Reducing Gun Violence
John Tirman, Executive Director and Principal Research Scientist, Center for International Studies

"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."



On Work, Stories, and American Identity
Christine Walley, Professor of Anthropology 

"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 and try to enact. 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."


Reading for the Midterms
Annotated Booklist from the MIT Humanities Faculty


As the 2018 midterms approach, MIT writers and humanities scholars offer a selection of nine books — along with notes on why each work is illuminating for this moment in American history. (Photo: Suspended Bookshelf," by Richard Wentworth)




Suggested Resources

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