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.


Polarized:  Partisanship, Social Movements, and the Transformation of American Democracy
Friday, October 30, 2 p.m. (EST)

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. #democracy2020


Julia R. Azari is associate professor of political science at Marquette University, where she also serves as director of graduate studies. Her areas of research expertise include the American presidency, political communication and rhetoric, and political parties. She is the author of Delivering the People’s Message: The Changing Politics of the Presidential Mandate (2014, Cornell University Press). She writes regularly for the political science blog Mischiefs of Faction, the data journalism site, and is a co-host of the podcast Politics in Question.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is an Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He studies the politics of the American political economy, with an emphasis on business, labor, and wealthy donors. He is the author of State Capture (Oxford University Press, 2019) and Politics at Work (Oxford University Press, 2018). His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other popular outlets.

Leah Wright-Rigueur is the Harry S. Truman Associate Professor of American History at Brandeis University. As a trained political historian, her scholarship and research expertise include 20th Century United States political and social history; modern African American history, with an emphasis on race and political ideology; presidential elections; policies and civil rights movements; and protest and civil unrest. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power.


Tom Pepinsky is Tisch University Professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University and a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. He studies the interaction of political and economic systems, mostly in emerging market economies, and how we construct explanations and make inferences in the social sciences; he has a special interest in Southeast Asia.

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

Panelists: Frances Lee (Princeton), Christopher Parker (University of Washington), and Paul Pierson (University of California, Berkeley); Moderator: Robert Lieberman (Johns Hopkins)


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)