Democracy in Danger | Hub

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January 6, 2021 was a dark day in United States history. The world has seen rioters violently storm the Capitol, overtaking police officers and endangering the lives of elected officials and their staff in a bid to decertify the recent presidential election. But the physical attack was only one facet of the widespread onslaught currently facing American democracy. Here, scholars from across Johns Hopkins University discuss how this turning point in our history forever changed their field of research.

The French Revolution and the American reaction

Laura mason, senior lecturer, Department of History, Krieger School

Ja. 6 was just the most dramatic episode in a long attack on democracy that includes gerrymandering, racist voting restrictions, partisan judges’ seats, and the Senate’s refusal to deal with these issues. This assault did not change my research agenda so much as it refined my thinking, helping me see how the death of democracy at the end of the French Revolution echoed anti-democratic activism in the United States. Contemporary united. As at the end of the French Revolution, a minority in the United States clings to power by shrinking the electorate while too many stand idly by, imagining that justice is possible without activism to advance democracy. But the French Revolution offers what should be a familiar lesson: undermining the democratic rights of some citizens threatens the democratic rights of all citizens. The rapid decline of revolutionary France from democratic republic to authoritarian empire is a terrible warning to all of us.

Communication failure

André Perrin, Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Agora Institute Professor of Sociology

Ja. 6 demonstrated how urgent it is for us to understand and seek to improve the way Americans talk and listen to each other on big issues despite big disagreements. I think we knew theoretically that violence was possible, but seeing the effects of the total disruption of mutual respect illustrates the stakes of research on citizenship and democratic argumentation.

Undermine democracy, undermine the economy

Kathleen’s Day, Senior Lecturer in the History of Financial Crises, Carey Business School

The insurgency and the accompanying challenges to the integrity of our elections bode ill for the economic well-being of the United States. Democracy is the cornerstone of a strong and well-functioning economy, ensuring that investors have access to full and accurate information and have the law and the courts to defend their position. Undermining our democracy undermines our economy because it encourages lawlessness and corruption. It erodes the world’s confidence in us as a place to go when downturns and financial instability spark the desire for a flight to safety. It undermines our place of reference in terms of financial security. This will increase the costs for everything and will likely widen the income and wealth gap that is already the widest since the 1920s, shortly before the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

A perfect storm

Robert lieberman, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science, Krieger School

Tpolitical scientist Adam Przeworski defines democracy as “a system in which parties lose elections”. When a party resorts to bickering, manipulation and violence to gain power, it seems safe to say that democracy is in danger, and that is precisely what has happened in the United States. ‘last year. As Suzanne Mettler and I showed in our 2020 book, Four threats: the recurring crises of American democracy, the United States now faces a historic convergence of conditions that have combined to undermine American democracy in the past; the resulting democratic crisis has not abated since the defeat of Donald Trump. What has become clearer since then is that the integrity of the U.S. election is now under serious threat as state lawmakers across the country seek to gain control of the elections from non-partisan professionals. Therefore, understanding the sources of integrity and vulnerability in our decentralized electoral system has taken on a new urgency.

A presidential threat to democracy

Benjamin ginsberg, David Bernstein Professor of Political Science, Krieger School

Donald Trump is another example of the dangers posed by presidential power in America. But was he a threat to democracy? Trump was disorganized and lacked a lot of political skills. Its most enthusiastic base of support consisted of a white underclass whose influence in American politics was greatly reduced with the collapse of American manufacturing industries and the decline of organized labor in America. The fact that in January 2021 this unruly, inexperienced and often insane individual actually, albeit briefly, posed a threat to the Republic, demonstrates the fragility of democracy in contemporary America.

Can American democracy be saved from the forward march of presidential imperialism? Maybe Congress could get some of its lost powers back. Perhaps the judiciary could be weaned from its submission to the executive. Perhaps the party system could be reorganized to produce less monstrous presidents. Things, however, have likely brought America too close to the abyss. A future president with more ability and organization than Trump will demonstrate the difference between real power and what the editors called “the power of the parchment,” a power that exists on paper but not in reality.

As for Donald Trump’s place in history, future historians might have to overthrow Hegel and Marx by observing that history always repeats itself twice, the first time as a tragedy and the next time as a farce. In Trump’s case, maybe we start with a joke and end with a tragedy.

Educate future generations

Ashley Berner, Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, and Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Education

The events of January 6 heightened the public’s urgency about the role of K-12 education in preparing the next generation of citizens. From the first time they step into a classroom, children should acquire the knowledge, skills and habits necessary to create enlightened adult citizenship. In recent decades, however, we have taken civic education into the background. We can’t do it anymore.

The good news is that education policy makers, practitioners and academics are coming together in what is still a very politically charged environment to provide young people with rich social studies materials that challenge and animate them, allocate funds. for the professional development of history and civic education teachers. , establish school policies that reinforce the importance of controversial conversations and help parents understand the difference between exposure to a range of ideas and indoctrination.

While the work of the past year is encouraging, there is still a long way to go. We cannot afford to slow down, as the sober anniversary reminds us.

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