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

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)




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 FiveThirtyEight.com, 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.