U.S. Capitol at night

Gilens on Efforts to Undercut American Democracy

Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens joined a Scholars’ Circle panel weighing threats to American democracy and prescriptions for reinvigorating democratic norms. Recent efforts to overturn elections and restrict voting rights are rooted in a long-standing lack of government responsiveness to the needs of ordinary citizens, said Gilens, noting that the nation’s elite is responsible for the latest attacks on democratic practices. “It doesn’t take a majority of the public to abandon democracy, for our institutions to be eroded or our electoral processes to be undermined,” he said. “It only takes a willingness of people to look the other way.” Gilens likened the current political atmosphere to the Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th Century, a period of gaping economic inequality and dysfunctional government. Political and economic reforms were enacted, but only after decades of effort at the local, state and national levels. “The change did come, but it didn’t come quickly or easily,” he said.


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