The Democracy 20/20 Webinar series will bring together scholars who can put contemporary events in historical and comparative perspective in order to promote deeper understanding of the challenges that these unsettling times pose for American democracy. Read more here.


Post-Election Debriefing: The Future of American Democracy
Friday, December 4, 2 p.m. (EST)

The 2020 presidential election tested the political system and brought American democracy close to the brink. President Donald Trump made continued claims of fraud over mail-in ballots, even during the pandemic, and he encouraged his white nationalist and other supporters to disrupt the voting process. Long after his loss became clear, he and other elected Republican officials refused to accept the results and persisted in making unfounded claims of fraud. How well will the political system respond to these historic challenges? Will it show American democracy to be resilient, or will it deteriorate toward authoritarianism? What will the Biden presidency mean for these trends? And what will this election portend for Congress, the states, the Republican and Democratic parties – and for the future of American politics? The event is co-sponsored by the Einaudi Center and the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. #democracy2020


Frances Lee is Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Her most recent book, coauthored with James M. Curry, is The Limits of Party: Congress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era (2020). She is also author of Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign (2016) and Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles, and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate (2009).

Christopher S. Parker is the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science in the department of political science at the University of Washington, Seattle. Parker is the author of Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (Princeton).

Paul Pierson is the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, with Jacob S. Hacker.


Robert C. Lieberman is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. He is a scholar of American political development, race and politics, public policy, and democracy and the author of several prize-winning books. His most recent book is Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy (with Suzanne Mettler). He is a co-convenor of the American Democracy Collaborative. He previously served as provost of Johns Hopkins and as dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.


Polarized: Partisanship, Social Movements, and the Transformation of American Democracy
Friday, October 30

This panel will explore how social movements and changes in the two major political parties are affecting American democracy.  Major changes have occurred in terms of who the parties represent and which social groups they mobilize, and important questions surround the impact of the Black Lives Matter protests on the 2020 elections.  Other organizations, ranging from the Koch network to organized labor, evangelical churches, and gun groups, have also influenced the parties and played a role in reshaping party politics. Parties and movements have long provided voice to citizens and connected them to the government, but these mediating roles are in flux, and their transformation has important implications for American democracy. Panelists: Julia R. Azari (Marquette), Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (Columbia), Leah Wright-Rigueur (Brandeis University); Moderator: Tom Pepinsky (Cornell)


Destroying or Deploying the ‘Deep State’: Challenges to Federal Agencies
Friday, September 18

President Donald Trump came into office vowing to disrupt the “deep state” and to “drain the swamp” of the federal bureaucracy. This panel will discuss how the capacity and professionalism of the federal government has fared over the past four years, assessing the extent to which it has been weakened or deployed for political purposes. Specific agencies will be discussed, such as the Post Office, the Food and Drug Administration, and Health and Human Services. Panelists will discuss developments in historical perspective, comparing them to what ensued under previous presidential administrations, and to the extent damage has occurred, consider what it will take to repair it. Panelists: Daniel Carpenter (Harvard), Jamila Michener (Cornell), and Donald Moynihan (Georgetown); Moderator: Suzanne Mettler (Cornell).


Already Authoritarian? Violence, Policing, and Democracy

 Federal authorities have responded to this summer’s protests with force, using tear gas on crowds and empowering unidentified law enforcement personnel, some of whom have used  unmarked vans to pick up protesters at random. The protests, while spurred by recent killings of African Americans by police, have highlighted long-established patterns of intensive and often violent policing of communities of color.  This webinar will examine these developments in the context of American history, asking the extent to which they deviate from or continue established patterns, and analyze them relative to the experience of policing in other countries around the world, in order to reveal the implications for US democracy. Panelists: Sabrina Karim (Cornell), Ayobami Laniyonu (University of Toronto), and Vesla Mae Weaver (Johns Hopkins); Moderator: Robert Mickey (University of Michigan).


Can the United States hold free and fair elections this fall?

Free and fair elections constitute an essential element of representative democracy, enabling societies to resolve conflict peacefully and permitting the people to select their public officials and hold them accountable. But Americans’ confidence in the legitimacy of elections has declined in recent years, battered by partisan voter suppression efforts and the erosion of the Voting Rights Act, Russia’s persistent attempts to disrupt American elections, and President Donald Trump’s unfounded charges of electoral fraud. Now the coronavirus pandemic presents additional obstacles. This panel will assess the challenges to running a free and fair election this year, and how they can be overcome. Panelists: Amel Ahmed (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Jacob M. Grumbach (University of Washington), and Richard L. Hasen (University of California, Irvine); Moderator: David Bateman (Cornell)


The Protests and U.S. Democracy

Social protests against police violence quickly proliferated across the United States in recent weeks, attracting large crowds not only in major cities but in smaller cities and towns as well, and placing racial inequality and civil rights at the center of political debate heading into the November 2020 elections.  In this session of our webinar series, three experts on U.S. politics will analyze these protests  and their implications for U.S. democracy. Panelists: Megan Ming Francis (Harvard, University of Washington), Daniel Q. Gillion (University of Pennsylvania), and Lara Putnam (University of Pittsburgh); Moderator: Kenneth Roberts (Cornell)