On Democracy and Governance studies in an era of democratic crisis – part. 3

By Dr. Daniel Brumberg, Director of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University 

(continues from part 2…)

What then is to be done? What can we, students and faculty in this country’s only full Masters program in Democracy and Governance Studies, do in the face of these challenges, and the potentially massive political change happening on our own doorstep? I honestly am not sure, but I would offer, at least to get the discussion started, a few ideas.

First, we need a course, or a series of special lectures, that highlight problems of –and the nexus between– democratization and autocratization in Western democracies. The rise of Trump has historical precedents that our students need to understand. Such a course, or lecture series, would begin with a discussion of the breakdown of Western democracies in the 1930s, but would then focus on present challenges to democracy, not merely in the US, but in the wider global arena (Western Europe in particular).

Second, we should give more prominence in our curriculum to the crucial link between conflict and political change. As students who have taken my courses know, this is an issue I spend a lot of time discussing. We need to do more of this, perhaps by working more closely with the Conflict Resolution Program to focus on how social and identity conflicts can be managed—or magnified–by different democratic institutions.

Third, we need classes, readings or lectures that address the phenomenon of “globalizing authoritarianism,” and its many social, institutional, ideological and strategic facets. The much discussed role of Russia in the 2016 elections is only one example of a global dynamic that began to unfold at least a decade ago but which now may be reaching its zenith. The genesis, nature and most of all impact of this dynamic should be of interest to all our students.

These are just some initial ideas. What we need now, before anything, is a discussion about how our own MA program might engage the current political crisis in the US. I would like to hear your ideas, and thoughts from our faculty. Let us consider a meeting around this topic in mid-March, when the sun begins to reappear and can sustain our work and discussions.