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Has American democracy’s long, ambitious run come to an end? Possibly yes. As William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe argue in their new book, Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy (UChicago Press, August 2020), the United States faces a historic crisis that threatens our system of self-government.
Please join the Chicago Center on Democracy and the Center for Effective Government for a discussion with the authors, moderated by Susan Stokes, on September 16, 2020.
Howell and Moe argue that the most visible threat to U.S. democracy is Donald Trump, who has used his presidency to attack the nation’s institutions and violate its democratic norms. Yet Trump is but a symptom of causes that run much deeper: social forces like globalization, automation, and immigration that for decades have generated economic harms and cultural anxieties that our government has been wholly ineffective at addressing.
What can be done to safeguard American democracy? The disruptive forces of modernity cannot be stopped. The solution lies, instead, in having a government that can deal with them, which requires reforms of the presidency itself—reforms that harness the promise of presidential power for effective government, but firmly protect against the fear that it may be put to anti-democratic ends.