Can We Achieve an Inclusive Democracy? American Democracy in Crisis
The first group of readings asks whether American democracy today is in crisis. The authors explore current potential threats to democracy, including partisan polarization, economic inequality, misinformation, mistrust of government, obstacles to voting, and conflicts about who belongs in the political community (particularly based on race). The second group of readings takes a broader look at American democracy throughout history and today, examining the country’s racist history of undemocratic exclusion, the divide between rural and urban areas, and the promise and problems of deliberative democracy.
Is Our Democracy in Peril?
- Suzanne Mettler & Robert Lieberman, Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, (2020) Chapter 1
- Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, (2018), Introduction
- Editors, National Review: Anniversary of a Disgrace (2021)
- Joan Donovan, The Biggest Problem Facing America: Misinformation At Scale, Promarket (2021)
- Danielle Allen, Chair, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, Introduction: The Challenges
- Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power (2021)
- *Nathaniel Persily & Charles Stewart III, The Miracle and Tragedy of the 2020 U.S. Election, Journal of Democracy (2021)
- *Online Symposium: Richard L. Hasen, Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy (2020), 100 B.U. L. Rev. Online 238 (2020)
- *Sophia Rosenfeld, Democracy and Truth: A Short History (2019)
Inclusion, Power, Conflict
- William A. Galston, The Bitter Heartland, The American Purpose (2021)
- Heather McGhee, Never a Real Democracy (Chapter 6) in The Sum of Us, (2021) pp.139-45.
- Jason Stanley & Vesla Weaver, Is the United States a ‘Racial Democracy?,’ N.Y. Times (2014)
- *Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Majority (1994)
- **Jacob S. Hacker, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson & Kathleen Thelen, The American Political Economy: A Framework and Agenda for Research, in The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power (2021).
- **Brian Highsmith & Kathleen Thelen, The Role of Courts in American Political Economy (Feb. 7, 2022).
- *K. Sabeel Rahman & Hollie Russon Gilman, Civic Power: Rebuilding American Democracy in an Age of Crisis (2020)
Constructing the Political Community: Citizenship, Immigration, Populism
These readings aim to define citizenship, both legally and normatively. They explore citizenship’s relationship to social solidarity and exclusion and how solidarity is politically constructed. The second set of readings discusses immigration and its backlash as well as the recent rise of nationalism and populism.
Citizenship and the National Community
- Judith Shklar, American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion (1991), Introduction
- Danielle Allen, Sacrifice and Citizenship, in Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (2004), pp.37-49
- Keith Banting & Will Kymlicka, The Political Sources of Solidarity in Diverse Societies, in The Strains of Commitment (2017), pp.1-34
- **Ming Hsu Chen, Colorblind Nationalism and the Limits of Citizenship, forthcoming in 44 Cardozo Law Review 2023.
- *Teresa Bejan, Mere Civility (ebook) (2017)
- *Adam Serwer, Civility is Overrated, The Atlantic (2019)
- *Loretta Ross, I Am A Black Feminist: I Think Callout Culture Is Toxic, N.Y. Times (2019)
- *Bernard Yack, Nationalism and the Moral Psychology of Community (2012)
Immigration and Populism
- Hiroshi Motomora, The New Migration Law: Migrants, Refugees, and Citizens in an Anxious Age, Cornell L. Rev. (2020), pp.458-99
- Zoltan Hajnal, Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Backlash in Broader Perspective
- Yasmine Serhan, The Future of Populism, The Atlantic (2020)
- *Jan-Werner Mueller, What Is Populism? (2016)
- *Nadia Urbanti, Me the People (2019)
- *Ming Hsu Chen, Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era (2020)
- *Caitlin Dickerson, America Never Wanted the Tired Poor Huddled Masses, The Atlantic (2021)
Structuring American Democracy: Federalism as Problem and Promise
These materials compare the possibilities for building power and protecting rights at the national, state, and local levels. They explore the problems and promises of federalism, which can allow racial minorities and dissenters to gain local power but also allow states to, for example, limit the numbers of people who can benefit from federal welfare spending. They pose the question of whether civil rights are best served by a federal floor or by states and ask how federalism can diffuse social conflict.
Rights and States’ Rights
- Ronald Brownstein, The Republican Axis Reversing the Rights Revolution, The Atlantic (2021)
- Heather Gerken, A New Progressive Federalism, Democracy (2012)
- Monica Bell, Laboratories of Suffering, Holes in the Safety Net (2019)
- **Leah Litman, Disparate Discrimination (forthcoming in Michigan Law Review).
- *Maggie Blackhawk, Federal Indian Law as Paradigm within Public Law, Harvard L. Rev. (2019)
State and Local Institutions
- David N. Schleicher, Federalism Is in a Bad State, Harvard L. Rev. Blog (2018)
- Jessica Bulman-Pozen, States of the Union, Harvard L. Rev. Blog (2018)
- Miriam Seifter, State Institutions and Democratic Opportunity, (Duke Law Journal 2022), pp.14-36.
- Sheila R. Foster & Chrystie F. Swiney, City Power and Powerlessness on the Global Stage, Urban Futures (2019)
- New York City Gives 800,000 Noncitizens Right to Vote in Local Elections, N.Y. Times (2021)
- *Robert Dahl, The City in the Future of Democracy, 61 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 953 (1967)
- *Miriam Seifter, Countermajoritarian Legislatures, Columbia L. Rev. (2021)
Federalism and Conflict
Voting, Social Solidarity, and Racial Authoritarianism
The first group of readings asks whether our electoral system functions as it should. It examines the extent to which our electoral system is shaped by racial inequality and accounts for historical disenfranchisement. Weaver and Prowse ask why political scientists have failed to account for racial authoritarianism (starkly different sets of rules and laws for different people based on race) in studying U.S. democracy. The second set of readings explores partisan polarization and the increasing overlap between political parties and social or group identities, in addition to evaluating the Supreme Court’s willingness to defend representative democracy.
Elections and Racial Authoritarianism
- Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013)
- Brnovich v Democratic National Committee, 141 S. Ct. 2321 (2021)
- Carol Anderson, One Person, No Vote (2018), Chapter 1
- Vesla Weaver & Gwen Prowse, Racial Authoritarianism in U.S. Democracy, Science (2020)
- **Franita Tolson, In Congress We Trust?: Enforcing Voting Rights from the Founding to the Jim Crow Era, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in 2023 – Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2
- *Heather McGhee, Racism Drained the Pool (Chapter 2) in The Sum of Us (2021), pp. 17-40.
- *Amna Akbar, An Abolitionist Horizon for (Police) Reform, California L. Rev. (2020)
- *Amy E. Lerman & Vesla M. Weaver, Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control (2014)
- *Issa Kohler-Hausmann, Misdemeanorland (2018)
Parties and Partisanship
- Guy-Uriel E. Charles & Luis E. Fuentes-Rohwer, Dirty Thinking About Law & Democracy in Rucho v. Common Cause, ACS Supreme Court Review (2019)
- Lilliana Mason, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity (2018), Chapters 1-3
- Russell Muirhead & Nancy L. Rosenblum, The Political Theory of Parties and Partisanship: Catching Up, Annual Review of Political Science (2020)
- Lee Drutman, The Two-Party System is Killing Our Democracy, Vox (2020)
Reforming Democratic Institutions: Congress and the Executive Branch
These readings compare the strengths and weaknesses of Congress and the executive branch in representing voters, providing checks and balances to other branches, and preventing democratic backsliding. The first set of readings evaluates polarization, gridlock, and dysfunction in Congress and proposes a population-based majoritarian rule for ending the filibuster in the Senate. The second set of readings examines executive power and administrative agencies and proposes means for evaluating when leaders have accrued too much power and are eroding liberal constitutions.
Congressional Capacity and Norms
- Cynthia R. Farina, Congressional Polarization: Terminal Constitutional Dysfunction?, Columbia L. Rev. (2015), pp.1689-1705
- Jonathan S. Gould et al., Democratizing the Senate from Within, Journal of Legal Analysis (2021), pp.502-17
- Alexander C. Furnas & Timothy M. LaPira, Congressional Brain Drain (Executive Brief), New America (2020)
- **Jonathan Gould, A Republic of Spending
Constitutional Culture and Judicial Review
- Cristina Rodriguez, Regime Change, Harvard L. Rev. Foreword (2021), pp.58-91
- Bertrall L. Ross, Administrative Constitutionalism as Popular Constitutionalism, U. Penn. L. Rev. (2019), pp.1806-09
- Kim Lane Scheppele, Autocratic Legalism, U. of Chicago L. Rev. (2018)
Constitutional Culture and Judicial Review
These materials evaluate the viability of various proposals for reforming the Supreme Court. They present different views of the Supreme Court as a political or an apolitical body, the optimal strength of judicial review, and the appropriate level of judicial deference to legislative authority.
- Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, Final Report, Introduction (2021)
- Samuel Moyn & Ryan Doerfler, Democratizing the Supreme Court, 109 Cal. L. Rev. 1703 (2021), pp.1705-28
- Nikolas Bowie (Harvard Law School), Testimony before the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court (2021)
- Christopher Kang (Demand Justice), Testimony before the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court (2021)
- Rosalyn Dixon, Why the Supreme Court Needs (Short) Term-Limits, N.Y Times (2021)
- John Malcolm (Heritage Foundation), Testimony before the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court (2021)
- Stephen Breyer, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics (2021), Ch. 1&3
- **Nikolas Bowie & Daphna Renan, The Supreme Court is Not Supposed to Have This Much Power, The Atlantic, June 8, 2022