Peter H. Schuck


On his book One Nation Undecided: Clear Thinking about Five Hard Issues That Divide Us

Cover Interview of July 26, 2017

A close-up

Each reader, of course, will be more interested in some of the issues than in others, and the book’s organization facilitates their ability to pick-and-choose with that in mind. For example, those interested in understanding why poverty remains a compelling issue over 50 years after the War on Poverty was launched will learn how it relates to inequality, how it is best measured, what the trends are, how it affects different demographic groups, the federal programs that purport to address it, and the pros and cons of different approaches to alleviating it.

Those interested in immigration will learn about the history of immigration, how the immigration system is administered, public attitudes and immigration politics, the economic impacts of legal and unauthorized immigrants, and about specific policy issues such as comprehensive immigration reform, high skill workers, agricultural workers, the legal admissions system, immigration from Mexico, legalization proposals, the role of the states, immigrants’ use of welfare benefits, citizenship issues, demographic issues, enforcement problems, and the social integration of immigrants.

Those interested in campaign finance will learn how it was regulated in the past and what the structure of regulation is today, what the trends in contributions and spending have been, how important money is compared with other factors affecting election outcomes, how the Supreme Court’s readings of the First Amendment (including Citizens United) have shaped the issue and constrains different approaches to it, and what behavioral changes we can expect from various types of reforms to the campaign finance system and the political parties that have created it.

Those interested in affirmative action will learn about the context of these programs, especially in higher education, and why they remain so controversial fifty years after they were instituted by the Nixon administration as part of his “southern strategy.” The chapter then explains how these programs work, the historical and moral arguments that sustain them, the evolution of public opinion toward them, the politics and demographic realities that drive them, the Supreme Court’s continuing assessment of their constitutionality, the various rationales for these programs, and the coherence (or as I argue, the incoherence) of the diversity rationale on which the Court has principally relied to support them.

Those interested in understanding the deep conflicts presented by religious groups’ demands for exemption from anti-discrimination policies in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rulings in the Hobby Lobby and gay marriage cases will learn about the context in which these issues arise: our remarkable religious diversity, our growing “rights culture,” our constitutionally-regulated efforts to separate church and state through “neutral” principles, and how we can best go about reconciling religious practices that risk offending majoritarian policies and principles such as marriage equality.