Concluding our “Democratic Erosion” miniseries, Victoria Potts uses a prolonged political dispute over the fate of Confederate monuments in Memphis city parks to examine political accountability in democratic institutions. She examines the conflict between Memphis City Council, the Tennessee state legislature, and an appointed historical commission to ask whom appointed commissions should be accountable to, and when indirect or unelected power is justified in a democratic system.
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.
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, 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, 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 the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Jan-Werner Müller argues that attention to right-wing populist movements gaining attention in Europe and the United States can both over- and underestimate their political importance and impact. For Müller, such movements are best understood not by their “anti-elitist” tendencies, but rather by their antipluralist claims to represent the “real people.” He also emphasizes how the rise of right-wing populism is inseparable from the degree to which they are enabled by more mainstream conservative parties, and refers to Austria as a counterexample in which the mainstream right rejected populist extremism.
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.”