Photo: Ilhan Omar, MN-05 Representative-Elect. (Photo credit: Lorie Shaull)

By Democracy & Society Editors

The Democratic party performed about as well as expected in the midterm elections, perhaps restoring confidence to the electoral prediction industry. Though the success of the Democratic party in the House of Representatives can be taken as a sign that Americans are rejecting some of the more authoritarian aspects of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the conduct of candidates’ during the campaign and after the election should leave (small-d) democrats pessimistic. The Democratic party’s new majority in the House will place a check on President Donald Trump’s power, but the 2018 midterms served to highlight the profound problems of American democracy.

This article was originally published by Arab Centre Washington DC and is republished with their permission from 

By Daniel Brumberg

The murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi reminded Americans that the United States remains aligned with Arab leaders who regularly repress, imprison, and kill opponents for expressing their political views. Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2 was an especially gruesome crime. To be sure, Washington has often backed regimes that employ lethal violence on a far grander scale. Egypt’s current president, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, took power in a July 2013 military coup that ended the country’s brief and tumultuous democratic experiment. Less than a month later, Egyptian security forces slaughtered some 800 civilian protesters in Rabaa Square. Sisi’s government, backed by the judiciary, then proceeded to jail tens of thousands of Egyptians on vague or trumped-up charges. Yet President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, did not protest and even praised Sisi and his allies for “restoring democracy.” From a strictly moral point of view, then, was Kerry’s statement worse than President Donald Trump’s assertion that Khashoggi’s killing was probably the work of “rogue killers”? This assertion was taken up by Saudi leaders who proceeded to dismissalleged conspirators from their positions and imprison other collaborators—acts that are nevertheless seen by the world as only a cover-up for perfidious behavior by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

By Ben Mindes

Election administration in America is governed not by one singular body, as is typical in almost every country around the world, but by nearly 10,000 local jurisdictions, each with their own rules and regulations. Local elections are often underfunded and rely on volunteer poll workers who often receive minimal training on complex election procedures. Assessments of electoral administration quality are largely based off election administrators themselves or anecdotal observation efforts.

Therefore, when allegations of election fraud surfaced in the aftermath of the recent special elections in Alabama, the only recourse available to determine whether such claims were justified was to ask the administrators themselves.

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.

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 Javier Peña, Democracy & Governance M.A. Program alumnus

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


Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Harper, 2016.


One of the threats our republic faces today is the growing distance between so many of us. For a democratic republic to work, its citizens, with their elected representatives, must be able to share their beliefs and preferences, listen to one another, and then get on with the hard and necessary work of governing to advance the national interest. Yet it is becoming increasingly difficult, in no small part because we make it difficult, to truly listen to those on the other side.

By Evan Chiacchiaro, Master’s Candidate of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University

Political science suggests that the American political system may be approaching a crisis point. It’s time to pay attention.

It has been over 150 years since we as Americans have had to confront a true internal existential threat to the stability of American democracy. Since then, presidents have been impeached, they’ve been assassinated, they’ve died of natural causes while in office, and they’ve shattered existing term limit norms. In each case, the rules and institutions of the political system continued to function, and every four years an election was held and an executive elected. Recent trends and events, however, make it crystal clear that American democratic stability is under threat from three distinct but interrelated angles. To save it, Americans who care about our democracy must mount a full-throated defense.

By Kate Kizer, second year student of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University and director of policy and advocacy at the Yemen Peace Project

The Trump administration’s Yemen policy during his first 100 days has worsened an already calamitous status quo. Given the precedents set by his predecessors, in which U.S. involvement was dominated by counterterrorism interests and largely uncritical support for an ally committing possible war crimes with U.S. sold weapons, Trump has hardly been primed to achieve an ideal solution.