Strengthening American Democracy: Reflection, Action, and Reform
  • Publication Date: April 30, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781554816279 / 1554816270
  • 190 pages; 6" x 9"

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Strengthening American Democracy: Reflection, Action, and Reform

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781554816279 / 1554816270
  • 190 pages; 6" x 9"

Many experts have observed a world-wide trend toward “democratic deconsolidation,” reflected in America through declining trust in government at all levels and the rise of authoritarian thinking. The trend is rooted in extreme partisan polarization, which serves as fertile soil for the rise of anti-democratic movements and tendencies. This book aims to combat that disturbing trajectory, offering readers the tools to engage in and aspire toward a more responsive and accountable democracy. Its 46 brief and accessible articles outline a number of institutional, structural, process-oriented, and policy-related challenges to American democracy. In most cases, specific proposals for reform are discussed, encouraging the reader to think about how to make tangible progress towards a “more perfect Union.”


Part I: Democratic Deconsolidation and American Democracy

  • Is American Democracy at Death’s Door?
  • Strong Institutions
  • Shared Stories
  • Progress is Progressive
  • “But, it’s a ‘Republic’” is No Excuse for Anti-Democratic Action and Illiberal Resistance
  • A Word About Mechanisms of Reform—Constitutional Amendments v. Other Options

Part II: America’s Democratic Aspirations Under Stress

  • 1. Still Believe in the American Dream?
  • 2. Voting Rights—The Fundamental Basis of Our Democracy–Are Under Siege
  • 3. Confirmation Bias Hurts Our Democracy
  • 4. Facts Matter, But Do They Speak for Themselves?
  • 5. Incivility in American Politics
  • 6. America’s Ideological Polarization Affects More Than Our Politics
  • 7. Changes in Trust Hurting Democracy
  • 8. Truth in Politics Can Be Rare, But Critical to Democracy
  • 9. Getting Along in an Era of Negative Partisanship
  • 10. The Fallacy of Absolute Freedom
  • 11. Taking Stock of the Power of the People

Part III: Reforming Institutions

  • 12. Looking at the Health of our Two-Party System
  • 13. Reform or Eliminate the Electoral College
  • 14. Gap in What Voters Want and What Politicians Do
  • 15. American Federalism—Blessing and Curse
  • 16. The People’s House is Too Small
  • 17. Let’s Consider Pros and Cons of Congressional Term Limits
  • 18. Is American Democracy Being Filibustered to Death?
  • 19. Should We Reform the Senate to Make Congress More Responsive to the People?
  • 20. Passing on the Power of Appointments: Reforming the Broken Administrative Appointment-Confirmation Process
  • 21. Executive Clemency Part of Justice Reform
  • 22. The (Un)Supreme Court: Time to Reform?
  • 23. Bureaucracy Has Vital Constitutive Role in American Democracy; Citizens Can Help Shape Its Power
  • 24. Weakened Government is the Problem
  • 25. Local Government in the Twilight Zone

Part IV: Reforming Democratic Processes and Procedures

  • 26. Protests Are Necessary, but Insufficient, for Lasting Political Change
  • 27. Should We Consider Mandatory Voting?
  • 28. All Hail the Faithless Elector(s) from Texas! (Well, Maybe Not)
  • 29. Improving the Presidential Nominating Process
  • 30. Both Parties Should Embrace Changes to the Presidential Primary Schedule
  • 31. How a Close Presidential Election Could Trigger a Constitutional Crisis
  • 32. Fix Partisan Gerrymandering to Reduce Gridlock and Extremism
  • 33. Freedom Caucus Shows Corrosive Effects of Gerrymandering
  • 34. Direct Democracy Has Its Challenges, But Remains a Key Mechanism for Change
  • 35. If Corporations Are People, Tell Us Who They Are
  • 36. Government Nudges Influence Conduct, So Should They Be Used More Often?
  • 37. Lawmakers Stoke Distrust to Justify Voting Restrictions
  • 38. Overcoming “Political Hobbyism” Through Activism

Part V: How America Survives: Reflection, Action, and Reform

  • 39. Good Citizenship—What Does it Mean to You?
  • 40. Can America’s Center Be Rebuilt?
  • 41. Independents and the Value of Political Talk
  • 42. To Strengthen Democracy, Start Small, Think Big
  • 43. Does Our Democracy Measure Up?
  • 44. Can We Americans Overcome Ourselves?
  • 45. We the People: How America Survives
  • 46. Being Gardeners of Our Communities

Conclusion: There is Work to Do—Together

John R. Baker is Professor of Political Science at Wittenberg University. He has written and edited several books on American politics, including Government in the Twilight Zone: Volunteers to Small-City Boards and Commissions and Readings on American Subnational Government.

  • • A broad look at the challenges faced by American democracy today, including polarization and the rise of authoritarian thought.
  • • Consists of a general introduction as well as 46 engaging articles.
  • • The articles are brief, making them ideal supplements for discussion in standard American Government and Politics courses.
  • • Includes numerous contemporary and historical examples.
  • • Discussion questions are included with each article to facilitate critical classroom dialogue.
  • • A glossary of key terms provides helpful background for better understanding of the articles.
  • • Includes positive suggestions for how American democracy can be strengthened and reformed to address the challenges it faces.