a debate on what’s wrong with our democracy

(Washington, DC) Later today, I will moderate a discussion on the state of US democracy at a Kettering Foundation Trustees’ meeting, involving:

  • Lani Guanier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard University,
  • James A. Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities and former Member of Congress,
  • Paul C. Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at NYU,
  • Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate,
  • Carol Geary Schneider, president of the American Association of Colleges & Universities,
  • Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University,
  • William H. Taft, IV, lawyer, former US Ambassador to NATO and Legal Advisor to the State Department under President George W. Bush,

… and the Kettering Trustees. One of the Trustees, Dr. Sandral Hullett from Birmingham, AL, will begin by describing the state of politics in her currently dysfunctional city. I hope to use that example to elicit useful perspectives from our guests, who differ in their basic diagnoses and prescriptions. Some are concerned that the political center isn’t holding; others call for a radical populist movement. Some argue that periodical elections are insufficient instruments of citizen control; others believe that we suffer from too much citizen influence. They direct their reformist energies, variously, at campaigns and elections, the federal civil service, educational institutions, Fox News and other media organizations, and citizens themselves.

The discussion will be audiotaped and ultimately turned into a public program. I am hoping for light as well as heat.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.