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.
Elizabeth Iams Wellman
Elizabeth Iams Wellman is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Williams College, and holds a research affiliation with The African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research is at the intersection of international migration and electoral politics, addressing issues of transnational political mobilization, voter suppression, and contentious elections. Her work has been published or is forthcoming at African Affairs, American Political Science Review, Foreign Policy, and the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties. In addition to her participation in the Democratic Erosion consortium, she is currently working on a book manuscript on the politics of diaspora voting in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a coproject investigator of the global Extraterritorial Voting Rights and Restrictions (EVRR) dataset. She is also an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker, including projects on Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and Truth Commissions around the world. She received her BA from Duke University, an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago, and a PhD with distinction from Yale University, and was previously a postdoctoral research fellow at the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University. Wellman was also a 2013 fellow of the SSRC's Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) program.