On January 6, 2021, an organized mob stormed the US Capitol. In this essay, Christina Kulich and Elizabeth Iams Wellman suggest that democratic erosion literature, as studied and taught by the Democratic Erosion consortium, might provide insight into how to understand the events of January 6 as a case study in democratic backsliding. They point out that this insurrection is but one of many antidemocratic disruption events in recent history, finding that the event is a symptom of global, causal trends that include rising inequality, declining trust in institutions, increasing political polarization, and truth decay. Kulich and Wellman argue that liberal democracies are facing a reckoning that may require a redress of systems and institutions so that they are more inclusive, participatory, and accountable.
Christina Kulich is an instructor in the Depart of Political Science and Legal Studies at Suffolk University, Boston, where she also directs internship and experiential learning programs. She is a comparativist who is interested in the politics of transitions between regime types and governments, of civic participation and engagement, with a regional focus on Europe and the United States. She is interested in how “out” groups, such as women and other underrepresented groups, fare in government, public policy, political parties, protest and political movements. The impact of institutional rules on political behavior, such as in building or destroying social capital and fostering or inhibiting civic engagement, is an area of particular interest. She is also an active member of the Democratic Erosion Consortium and her most current research project is in the area of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning civic skills across the liberal arts university curriculum. Kulich holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University, a PhD from Brandeis University, and is also an alumna of the JHU School of Advanced International Studies Bologna Center, now SAIS Europe.