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.
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. Throughout the SSRC’s history, it has organized and sponsored committees and conferences on democracy, both in the United States and abroad. Most recently, before the Anxieties of Democracy program, the SSRC convened the National Research Commission on Elections and Voting in 2004, culminating in the publication of the report, Challenges Facing the American Electoral System: Research Priorities for the Social Sciences.
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.
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.
In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Jörg Tremmel argues that the interests of future generations are not sufficiently taken into account within democratic regimes as currently constituted. He advocates for the creation of a fourth, future-oriented branch of government. This branch of government, to be composed of independent appointees with the power to introduce legislation in parliament, will have the mandate to represent the likely interests of future people.
In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Sarah E. Anderson, Daniel Butler, and Laurel Harbridge-Yong discuss the importance of closed-door negotiations for successful legislative compromise. Using experimental data collected from state legislators, the authors demonstrate that lawmakers expect private negotiations to result in successful compromises more often than public negotiations. These results are part of a project funded through the Anxieties of Democracy “Negotiating Agreement in Congress” grants program.
In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Deborah Coen explores how human beings make sense of large-scale natural phenomena like climate change. What does it mean to “understand” climate change? Does it mean the same thing to concerned citizens as it does to natural scientists, or humanities scholars, or policymakers? Coen uses a brief history of climate science since the nineteenth century to explore these questions and to challenge the traditional dichotomy between scientific explanation and humanistic understanding.
The Anxieties of Democracy (AoD) program’s Working Group on Climate Change has released three substantive reports on the ways in which social science, particularly political science, can and should engage with climate change. Here, AoD’s Kris-Stella Trump and Cole Edick provide an overview of the reports, which address the political demand for addressing climate change, the politics of choosing climate change policies, and the ethical and normative concerns that underscore the need for political action. Each report provides a concise overview of current research and outlines suggestions for future work.