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Center for Policy Studies
Public Affairs Discussion Group

Democracy and Demagogues: Lessons from Ancient Greece and Rome

Rachel Sternberg, Ph.D. - Associate Professor of Classics at Case Western Reserve University

Timothy Wutrich, Ph.D. - Senior Instructor of Classics at Case Western Reserve University
Friday February 3, 2017
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

The authors of the U.S. Constitution read Thucydides and Cicero. The classic texts on politics and government helped shape their position that democratic politics was vulnerable to perversion by the "propensity of mankind to fall into animosities" and "an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power" and so they argued the Constitution was desirable precisely because it could help prevent the effects of demagoguery. They knew from Roman experience that "republics" with complex divisions of power also could be overcome by tyrants.

Many commentators have linked these concerns to the candidacy and now presidency of Donald Trump. A column in The Economist titled, "Dude, where's my toga?" noted that, "As the parade of billionaires and generals joins Donald Trump's cabinet, it's hard not to be reminded of the Roman republic." But to what extent can the experience of Ancient Greece and Rome actually help us understand the causes and future of the Trump presidency? What does classical history tell us about human nature, class and group jealousies, politicians' grasping for power, mob psychology, and the manipulation of fear? What questions can we ask of those texts, and what answers might we receive?

All best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guests

Rachel Sternberg’s courses include Greek Civilization, Greek History, Classical Mythology, Women in the Ancient World, Elementary Ancient Greek, Sophocles, and Xenophon. The highlight of each year is a study trip to Greece. Sternberg holds a B.A. in archaeology and history from Cornell University, an M.A. in classics also from Cornell, and a Ph.D. in Greek from Bryn Mawr College. Her monograph, Tragedy Offstage: Suffering and Sympathy in Ancient Athens, was published by University of Texas Press in 2006, and her edited volume, Pity and Power in Ancient Athens, by Cambridge University Press in 2005. She is interested in the history of emotion, emotional discourse and moral rhetoric, and the reception of the classical tradition in the age of Jefferson. She is writing a book on how Athenian humane discourse relates to modernity’s Human Rights.

Timothy Wutrich is the author of the book Prometheus and Faust: The Promethean Revolt in Drama from Classical Antiquity to Goethe. His scholarly interests include all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman drama, Vergil, and the Classical Tradition in literature and the arts.

At CWRU, Dr. Wutrich teaches Greek and Latin language and literature, Greek and Roman drama and theater in translation, Greek and Roman literature surveys, Greek and Roman civilization, and Greek and Latin elements (etymology). He also regularly teaches in the university’s SAGES program.

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convenes each Friday when classes are in session, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Our programs are open to all and no registration is required. We usually meet in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library.

Schedule of Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:

February 10: Immigration Policy and the Trump Administration. With David Wolfe Leopold J.D., Past President, American Immigration Lawyers Association.

February 17: The New Health Education Campus and the Future of Health Care. With James Young M.D., Executive Dean, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.

February 24: Challenges Facing the U.S. Intelligence Community. With Vincent E. McHale, Ph.D., Marcus A. Hanna Emeritus Professor of Political Science.

March 3: Staffing and Organizing the Trump Presidency. With David B. Cohen, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, University of Akron.

March 10: Nuclear Weapons. With William J. Fickinger, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Physics.

March 17: No program, Spring Break.

March 24: Energy Storage: A Key to Sustainability. With Daniel A. Scherson, Ph.D., Frank Hovorka Professor of Chemistry and Director, Ernest B. Yeager Center for Electrochemical Sciences.

March 31: Merkel’s Challenge: Managing Trump, Putin, and a Million Syrians. With Mark K. Cassell, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, Kent State University.

April 7: Program to be Determined

April 14: Brazil’s Political Crises. With Juscelino F. Colares, Ph.D., Schott-Van den Eyden Professor of Business Law and Associate Director, Frederick K. Cox International Law Center.

April 21: Program to be Determined

April 28: Putin’s Russia. With Kelly M. McMann, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science and Director, International Studies Program.

January 30, 2017

If you would like to reply, submit items for inclusion, or not receive this weekly e-mail please send a notice to:

Upcoming Events

Are There Any Norms Left? What Clues 2016 Offers to America During the Trump Presidency

A discussion with Clare Malone, Senior Political Writer,, Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 4:30 p.m. Clark Hall Room 309, 11130 Bellflower Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. Free and open to the public. This program is cosponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science, the Office of Research and Technology Management, and the Center for Policy Studies.

The election of 2016 was rancorous even by the normal rough-and-tumble standards of U.S. politics. But the hostility between the candidates may be less important than the attitude towards the political system itself which the election revealed and encouraged.

The election revealed deep distrust of the political system and “the media” by many voters. Any sense of shared values and so trust between the parties seemed to erode further. The nomination process showed an upheaval against the “establishment” in each party. An “outsider” President now claims support of “the people” against “a small group in our nation’s capital.” “Alternative facts” are promoted against media that should "keep its mouth shut.”

Trump’s election may be seen as the culmination of a lengthy process of growing anger, distrust, and de-legitimation of institutions. What then, does it suggest about our government and politics going forward? As one of the core analysts for, Clare Malone contributed towards its sophisticated analysis of the election while it happened. Now she’ll discuss what it might mean.

Clare Malone joined the staff of as Senior Political Writer after working on the editorial staff of The New Yorker and a web editor of The American Prospect. As a free-lance writer, her work has been published also in Harper's, The New York Times, Elle, VICE, and The Daily Beast. She is a writer and transplant to Brooklyn by way of Washington, D.C.; Doha, Qatar; and Cleveland, Ohio.

Israeli Politics from Soup to Nuts

A Global Currents Discussion With Nadav Shelef Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science and Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Israel Studies at The University of Wisconsin, Madison, Monday, March 6, 2017, 4:45 p.m. - 6:15 p.m., Ford Auditorium in the Allen Memorial Medical Library, 11000 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. This program is made possible by the generosity of Ms. Eloise Briskin.

American voters may worry that they have only two parties from which to choose. Israelis do not have that problem.

Depending on how you count, the current Knesset (parliament) includes members of at least ten parties, representing a wide range of cleavages within the country.

As the number of parties hints, Israeli politics can be rather confusing. So the Center for Policy Studies is pleased to host Professor Nadav Shelef for an overview of the diversity and dynamics of Israel’s politics.

There are so many questions involving so many cleavages, such as Jews vs. non-Jews; ethnic cleavages within the Jewish population; how new and more recent immigrants have been incorporated into political competition; the relative weight of economic issues as opposed to identity and security issues; and the role of religion.

This lecture will explain how Israeli politics work and explore the ways in which Israel’s political institutions , especially the election rules and the party system, interact with the two main axes of Israeli politics – territory and identity – to produce the vibrant and turbulent character of the Israeli political sphere.

Nadav Shelef is the author of Evolving Nationalism: Homeland, Identity, and Religion in Israel, 1925-2005 (Cornell University Press, 2010). In this book he traces changes in how Zionism and Israeli nationalism were defined, focusing on questions such as where the “land of Israel” should be; the place of the state within the Zionist project, relationships with diaspora (especially American) Jews, and the place of religion within the state. He shows how these views evolved over time within the three major types of Zionism - Labor, Revisionist, and Religious – as each group responded both to changes in the environment and their competition with each other. Professor Shelef has also published articles in a wide range of journals, including International Organization, Security Studies, Political Science Quarterly, Middle East Journal, and Israel Studies. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his B.A. cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania.

February 2017




































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