American Dreams

A series exploring the unease pre-occupying American politicians and voters alike in a presidential election year. James Naughtie criss-crosses the United States to assess the extent to which belief in the American dream has been damaged by a failing economy, a continuing racial divide, the Iraq war and its own democratic process.

With 54 percent of Americans believing they will never achieve the American dream, the United States feels threatened. Confidence among Americans in ever-increasing prosperity has sagged; the unfinished history of racial tension and anger about immigration are troubling them; terrorism and war have produced schism and fear; more Americans than ever are asking whether their democracy still works.

The rhetoric of The Dream is still used as the storyline of politics, but belief in its staying-power has been shaken. That feeling is disturbing thoughtful people in politics, the universities, and business and getting a grip on voters. There is a shared sense across the political divide that the country has reached a crossroads.

Each programme will have as its core a case study firmly grounded in one particular American locality.

Complementing the gritty reportage are contributors including Nobel laureate and economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine Steve Forbes, author and editor of Newsweek International Fareed Zakaria, foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan, and conservative talk radio presenter with close ties to the Bush White House Laura Ingraham.

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Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
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01Michigan *2008063020080916

A series exploring the unease pre-occupying American politicians and voters alike in a presidential election year. James Naughtie criss-crosses the United States to assess the extent to which belief in the American dream has been damaged by a failing economy, a continuing racial divide, the Iraq war and its own democratic process.

With 54 percent of Americans believing they will never achieve the American dream, the United States feels threatened. Confidence among Americans in ever-increasing prosperity has sagged; the unfinished history of racial tension and anger about immigration are troubling them; terrorism and war have produced schism and fear; more Americans than ever are asking whether their democracy still works.

The rhetoric of The Dream is still used as the storyline of politics, but belief in its staying-power has been shaken. That feeling is disturbing thoughtful people in politics, the universities, and business and getting a grip on voters. There is a shared sense across the political divide that the country has reached a crossroads.

Each programme will have as its core a case study firmly grounded in one particular American locality.

Complementing the gritty reportage are contributors including Nobel laureate and economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine Steve Forbes, author and editor of Newsweek International Fareed Zakaria, foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan, and conservative talk radio presenter with close ties to the Bush White House Laura Ingraham.The series begins in Michigan, a rust belt state with a collapsing automotive industry and an economy in decline.

In Michigan, he finds a collapsing automotive industry and an economy in decline.

Contributors include economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine Steve Forbes, author Fareed Zakaria, foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan and radio presenter Laura Ingraham

02Houston *2008070720080917

He visits Houston, a city in the grip of a demographic revolution driven by a huge influx of immigrants, some legal and many illegal. They are fuelling both an economic boom and resentment in one of America's most ethnically diverse cities.

03Fort Riley *2008071420080918

He visits Fort Riley in Kansas, a rapidly expanding base playing a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He examines the use of the military as an instrument of US foreign policy and assesses the direction America may take as the world's superpower.

04 LASTWashington Dc *2008072120080919

In Washington DC, he finds a system dominated by money, lobbyists, partisan politics and anger on the airwaves. At a time of increasing polarisation, what changes could a new president really bring about?