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.
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, Christopher Karpowitz and Tali Mendelberg analyze the gender dynamics of small groups that discuss political issues. Based on experimental research they conducted, in which they varied the gender composition and decision rules of the groups, the authors found that women’s views and the kinds of issues most pertinent to them were typically ignored when women were in the minority, and when group decisions were majoritarian rather than consensus-based. Karpowitz and Mendelberg consider how the microdynamics of small groups might relate to the large-scale inequalities that research has shown regarding political influence among different social groups.
In this new contribution to the Democracy Papers, Elisabeth Clemens discusses what she calls the “(mis)alignment of social and political geography” in the United States as an unrecognized source of democratic anxiety. Taking an historical perspective, Clemens traces the increasing distancing of citizens and lived communities from infrastructures and geographies of governance. “Antistatism, federalism, and repeated redistricting,” she argues, render opaque the identification of “effective channels of influences or … responsibility for good or bad governing.”
Armin Schäfer reflects on what populism’s rise in Europe and the United States implies for how we view social class as a basis for voting and political partisanship. Drawing on recent studies, Schäfer shows growing disaffection among the working classes in established democracies concerning their sense of their ability to influence the policy decisions that affect them. Other research provides some evidence that the working class perceives their lack of political efficacy correctly—governing institutions respond far more to the preferences of the wealthy. In such a context, populist anger points to genuine democratic deficits.