By Grayson Lewis

British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe(right)

The optics were sub-optimal for British Prime Minister Theresa May as she took to the podium in front of Number 10 Downing Street on a characteristically chilly and rainy London April morning. The wind tossed up her hitherto immaculate bob-cut hair, as passing cars honked loudly over her speech. More than the weather however, it was the content of May’s announcement that caught the attention of a sleepy British public. May confidently, yet very unexpectedly, announced her cabinet’s push for a snap election, to take place in less than two months’ time. This meant that -despite her recent stance up to that point that her government wasn’t seeking to do so- May was intending for British voters nationwide to return to the polls a whole three years ahead of schedule. For many observers who weren’t familiar with British politics, this begged a simple question: Why?

By Lexi Merrick Boiro

The current Zimbabwe political crisis has reached new heights. However, Tuesday night’s events are merely indicative of the ongoing scramble for power within the ruling ZANU-PF party rather than a sudden change in the Zimbabwean political scene. These events are the result of the power struggle for succession to President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980.

The apparent military coup occurred just over a week after Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa fled the country after repeated verbal attacks by First Lady Grace Mugabe stating that Mnangawa and his allies in the “Lacoste faction” of the ruling ZANU-PF party were seeking to breed factionalism in their efforts to succeed her husband as President. Mnangagwa first left the country in August after he was apparently poisoned. The First Lady denied any involvement. After returning to Zimbabwe, he was verbally condemned at repeated rallies by both President Mugabe and his wife before being fired on November 6th, 2018. On Tuesday, the head of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, spoke out against Mugabe’s “purges”  of “members associated with liberation history” and warned that the military “will not hesitate to step in.”

The Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University is seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1,500 – 2,000 words for the 2017-18 edition of its publication — Democracy & Society. The submissions can be new publications, summaries, excerpts of recently completed research, book reviews, and works in progress. Graduate and undergraduate submissions are both accepted. Submissions for this issue will be due by January 19, 2018. Please email all submissions along with a brief author’s bio to democracyandsociety@gmail.com.

This issue will have a focus on Democracy, Nationalism, and Populism and we are seeking articles that address the following themes:

By Evan Chiacchiaro

As technology rapidly changes the way Americans live, it is essential for the future of American democracy that those driving this change wrestle with how new developments affect democratic norms and processes. The most effective way to do so is for technology companies to establish independent, non-partisan “democratic ombudsman” offices. The “democracy ombudsman” should be charged with understanding the effects of their company’s products on democratic governance and acting as an internal advocate for decisions that promote a healthy American democracy.

This post is the last in our Summer Reading Group series discussing recent books on the current state of American democracy.  

Jonathan Haidt. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York, NY: Random House Inc., 2012.

By Sundar Ramanujam is a 2017 graduate of the M.A. program in Democracy and Governance.

After robust discussions on racial identity and inequality in America, the focus of our last discussion of our 2017 summer book club is set on understanding polarization and divide in American society. However, unlike the previous two sittings, a slightly different academic framework has been adopted in studying this political conundrum: psychology.

By Manuel Ayulo, Master’s Candidate of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University.

Why the Corporate Sector?

Corporate investment in global development activities has steadily increased for over a decade. According to a study in 2014, most development experts expect corporate global development to triple by 2025 while bilateral aid shrinks by 30 percent.[i] Given these market trends, it is not surprising that development agencies like USAID increasingly consider private sector engagement and investment as cornerstones of their development strategies.

By Jennifer Raymond Dresden, Associate Director of the Democracy & Governance Program

We’re turning now to our final installation of the summer book club, focusing more directly on the polarization and partisanship that has increasingly come to define political life in the United States.  Rather than cruise through the usual tomes of political finger-pointing, though, we’ll take a slightly different approach to the topic. 

By Matteo Laruffa, PhD candidate LUISS University

“Crisis of democracy”, “democracies in crisis”, “demise of democracy”, or even “democratic deconsolidation” – these phrases, along with many others, have become the focal points of countless political debates from political tabloids to the highest degree of academia. This shows that the issue is once again in vogue.

As with many phenomena in political science, ones relating to “democracies in crisis” have captured the imagination of a diverse group of scholars from Classical Athens to modern day. In the ancient world, Plato was among the first authors to discuss it, while only two centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville furthered the topic with a focus on the risks for representative democracies. In the Thirties with the first reverse wave, and in the Seventies with a massive decline of confidence in democratic institutions, there was significant growth of attention for this phenomenon. Today, political scientists are focusing their research to the crisis of democracy.

This post is the second in our Summer Reading Group series discussing recent books on the current state of American democracy.  

Richard Reeves. Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to Do About It. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution Press, 2017.

By Cabell Willis ‘16

Our summer book club continues to explore the social trends underlying the current climate of American democracy with a fresh look at the problem of inequality in Richard Reeves’ new book Dream Hoarders: How the Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in The Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What To Do About It. The book draws on and synthesizes insights from a wealth of contemporary and classic scholarship on inequality to challenge the prevailing assumption that the top “one percent” of the distribution is at fault for the highly unequal allocation of wealth and income in our society. Reeves instead faults the top quintile of the income distribution, contending that they are “hoarding” opportunities for their children, thus facilitating the perpetuation and reinforcement of wealth and privilege among those that already have it. As Reeves’ puts it in the early pages of his book,

By Jennifer Raymond Dresden, Associate Director of the Democracy & Governance Program

Richard V. Reeves.  Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That’s a Problem, and What to Do About It.  Brookings Institution Press. 2017

Our second installation of the Democracy and Governance Summer Reading Group takes on questions of class and inequality in the United States.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be reading Richard Reeves’ new book Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That’s a Problem, and What to Do About It.