The moral force of the US Constitution

Why should we revere our constitution as the fundamental set of political and moral principles underlying our democracy? Is it simply because it was written and adopted by the “Framers”? Is it because it has legitimacy as a whole by having been democratically ratified through our history? Or, most fundamentally, is it because there are …

Astounding assault on democracy

Donald Trump's attack on the electoral system has gone far beyond normal and evidence-based legal challenges to details about the election and the vote counting. There is nothing normal or inconsequential about the president's current tactics or the support he receives from influential Republican officials. Trump and his supporters are now undertaking to reverse the …

The 2020 election

There is something encouraging about the health of American democracy on Election Day, 2020. That is the passion for our democracy that so many millions of US citizens have shown in coming out to vote — either through early voting or in-person voting on November 3. This is not an apathetic electorate this season; rather, …

Slipping towards authoritarianism

Many observers have raised concerns about the direction that American politics has taken in the past decade, and especially since the election of 2016. The concern is that conservatives in the United States, included elected officials and GOP leaders, have increasingly shown disregard for fundamental democratic values: the independence of the judiciary, the inviolable role …

The moral emotions of liberal democracy

Recent discussions in a class on democracy and the politics of hate (link) have been very stimulating and thought provoking. We have spent several weeks discussing Rawls's ideas in Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (JF) about the features of social life in a just society that might serve to make a just democracy stable over time. Rawls …

Mounk on the crisis of democracy

Yascha Mounk's recent The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It is one of several important efforts to understand the crisis that right-wing populism is creating for liberal democracies in many countries. (An abbreviated version of Mounk's analysis is published in his contribution to the Atlantic in March 2018 (link).) Mounk shares …

Conditions for a resilient diverse democracy

Under what conditions can a modern mass society embodying differences of race, religion, wealth, and political ideology maintain a functioning commitment to democracy and its institutions? The past fifteen years in Western Europe have witnessed an increasingly virulent threat to democracy in the form of the rise of right-wing extremism. Racism, hatred, and violence have …

The democratic dilemma of trust

In 2007 Chuck Tilly published an intriguing historical and theoretical study of the politics of equality and voice, Democracy. The book is a study of the historical movements towards greater democracy -- and likewise, the forces that lead to de-democratization. The threat currently posed to western democracies by the rise of radical populism makes it worthwhile …

A course on democracy and intolerance

I am teaching a brand new honors course at my university called “Democracy and the politics of division and hate”. The course focuses on the question of the relationship between democracy and intolerance. As any reader of the world's news outlets knows, intolerance and bigotry have become ever-more prominent themes in the politics of Western …

The assault on democracy by the right

A democracy depends crucially upon a core set of normative commitments that are accepted on all sides -- political parties, citizens, government officials, judges, legislators. Central among these is the idea of the political equality of all citizens and the crucial importance of maintaining equality in the availability of access to formal political involvement in …

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