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.

Already Authoritarian? Violence, Policing, and Democracy
Thursday, August 27, 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. EST

 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.


Sabrina Karim is an Assistant Professor in the department of Government at Cornell University.  Karim’s research focuses broadly on state building in the aftermath of political violence, with a particular focus on international involvement in police reforms to post-conflict states.  She is the co-author of Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace, and Security in Post-Conflict Countries (Oxford University Press, 2017 – awarded best book American Political Science Association Conflict Processes Best Book Award for 2018).  

Ayobami Laniyonu is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, where he studies race, policing, and social inequality. His current work focuses on gentrification, the policing of vulnerable populations (such as individuals with serious mental illnesses and the homeless), and understanding policing in a comparative perspective. Previously, he served as Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Policing Equity in New York City, working with police departments across the United States to identify and correct racial disparities in police contact and use of force.

Vesla Mae Weaver is the Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. She studies the persistence of racial inequality, colorism in the United States, and the causes and consequences of the dramatic rise in prisons and police power for race-class subjugated communities. She is co-author of Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control (with A. Lerman) and Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America (with J. Hochschild and T. Burch). She is at work on a new book, The State From Below, based on the largest archive of policing narratives using an innovative civic infrastructure called Portals (


Robert Mickey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He studies U.S. politics in historical and comparative perspective, and is interested in America’s democratization and contemporary democratic stability, racial conflict, and the intersection of long-term political and economic development. He is the author of Paths Out of Dixie: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America’s Deep South, 1944-1972 (Princeton University Press), and is working on a book with David Waldner (University of Virginia) on labor-regressive agriculture and its legacies for state-building in both the Reconstruction-era U.S. South and contemporary Iraq.


Can the United States hold free and fair elections this fall?
Tuesday, July 21

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. #democracy2020



Amel Ahmed is associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her work focuses on comparative democratization, with a special interest in the origins of electoral institutions and the unintended consequences of electoral reform. She is author of Democracy and the Politics of Electoral System Choice: Engineering Electoral Dominance and numerous articles on democratization in both historical and comparative perspective.

Jacob M. Grumbach is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington and a Faculty Associate with the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. Grumbach’s research focuses broadly on the political economy of the United States, with an emphasis on public policy, racial and economic inequality, American federalism, and statistical methods. Previously, Grumbach was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University, and received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2018.

Richard L. Hasen is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. Hasen is a nationally recognized expert in election law and campaign finance regulation, writing as well in the areas of legislation and statutory interpretation, remedies, and torts. His newest book, Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy was published by Yale University Press in 2020.


David Bateman is an associate professor in the department of Government at Cornell University. His research focuses on democratic institutions, with a particular focus on voting rights and representation. He is the author of Disenfranchising Democracy: The Construction of the Electorate in the United States, United Kingdom, and France (Cambridge University Press – awarded the 2019 J. David Greenstone Prize) and co-author, with Ira Katznelson and John Lapinski, of Southern Nation: Congress and White Supremacy after Reconstruction(Princeton University Press – awarded the 2020 V.O. Key Prize).

The Protests and U.S. Democracy
June 26, 2020

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.



Megan Ming Francis is a Visiting Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. Francis specializes in the study of American politics, with broad interests in criminal punishment, black political activism, philanthropy, and the post-civil war South. She is the author of the award winning book, Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State.

Daniel Q. Gillion is the Julie Beren Platt and Marc E. Platt Presidential Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests focuses on racial and ethnic politics, political behavior, political institutions, public policy, and the American presidency. He is the author of three books, most recently, The Loud Minority: Why Protests Matter in American Democracy (Princeton University Press) .

Lara Putnam is UCIS Research Professor in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh.  She researches social movements and political participation in local, national, and transnational dimensions. Since 2017 she has been studying grassroots political organizing in “rust belt” Pennsylvania and beyond. Her findings have been featured in Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists from the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance, ed. Theda Skocpol and Caroline Tervo (Oxford University Press) as well as the Washington Post, Washington Monthly, Vox, and Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.


Kenneth Roberts, Department of Government, Cornell University, teaches comparative and Latin American politics, with an emphasis on the political economy of development and the politics of inequality. His research is devoted to the study of political parties, populism, and labor and social movements.

Democracy 20/20 is sponsored by the American Democracy Collaborative, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs.