Continuing our “Democratic Erosion” miniseries of essays, Rachel Risoleo takes a look at the concept of incumbency advantage, arguing that this concept can help us explain the successful political candidacies of nonincumbent popular icons like Donald Trump in the United States and Jimmy Morales in Guatemala. She argues that celebrities who run for office are able to draw on advantages that are similar to those enjoyed by incumbent politicians, including name recognition, high levels of media exposure, and voters’ preference to identify with individual politicians.
Can representative democracies be strengthened to govern more effectively? The SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program is motivated by a concern about whether the core institutions of established democracies can capably address large problems in the public interest. The Democracy Papers highlight and summarize new research presented at conferences and workshops related to the Anxieties of Democracy program.
If you enjoy the Democracy Papers, you may also like our collection of reflection essays on the anxieties of democracy, The Inaugural Democracy Papers. These pieces were collected for the launch of the Anxieties of Democracy program in 2014–15.
Continuing our “Democratic Erosion” miniseries, Danielle Trujillo examines democratic erosion through the lens of felon disenfranchisement in the United States and finds this issue is insufficiently incorporated into measures of electoral integrity. Comparing Louisiana and Mississippi, she notes what she argues is an incongruity: both share strict policies regarding incarceration and voting rights for former felons, but they differ dramatically in expert assessments of the integrity of the electoral process.
A June 2018 US Supreme Court decision upheld Ohio’s process for purging eligible voters from the voting rolls under certain conditions. Kicking off our “Democratic Erosion” miniseries, Sarah Stradling analyzes the background and potential implications of Ohio’s planned implementation of the National Voter Registration Act, and what it signals about the health of democracy when voting rights are restricted.
In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Kay Schlozman, Henry Brady, and Sidney Verba give an authoritative overview of inequalities of political voice in the United States. Drawing on their recently published book, Unequal and Unrepresented: Political Inequality and the People’s Voice in the New Gilded Age, they show that not only has American political life long been dominated by inequalities of political voice, but also that these inequalities have been further accentuated by the increasing importance of money in politics.
André Bächtiger and Claudia Landwehr, in the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, explore innovative ways to address citizen dissatisfaction with existing institutions of representative democracies. They argue that adding deliberation-oriented features to existing systems can boost citizen support for, and participation in, democratic life. As an example, they point to deliberative mini-publics, which create conditions for considered deliberation among citizens through supportive conditions such as information provision, expert hearings, and facilitator intervention.
Jordan Tama, an awardee of a Negotiating Agreement in Congress grant (a component of the SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program) identifies an intriguing anomaly: greater bipartisanship in the US Congress on foreign policy than domestic issues. Tama examines the different forms this aisle-crossing may take—sometimes in broad opposition to the president’s policy preferences, and at other times when intraparty factions unite across party lines. He sees ideology, interest group politics, and institutional incentives as the key sources for foreign policy bipartisanship, and concludes with how these dynamics are playing out in the Trump administration.
The Media & Democracy program has released a report on the proceedings from its April 2018 conference on "Social Media and Democracy." Here, program codirector Kris-Stella Trump provides an overview of the report and discusses the motivation behind the convening.
In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Michael Zürn explores the roots of authoritarian populism. He argues that authoritarian populist politics is an expression of a new political cleavage: between cosmopolitans and communitarians. This cleavage emerged in the wake of post–World War II grand bargains to tame the class conflict and is a response to increasingly influential nonmajoritarian institutions with a cosmopolitan orientation.
In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Thomas Zittel explores when and how polarization becomes a cause for democratic anxiety. He argues that polarization over traditional policy issues is not in itself harmful, and can even be beneficial for democracies. However, he warns that polarization in which parties become divided over the acceptable rules of the game is a problem for democracies. Unfortunately, this latter type of division is increasingly common on both sides of the Atlantic today.