Strengthening American Democracy: Reflection, Action, and Reform
  • Publication Date: May 23, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781554816279 / 1554816270
  • 192 pages; 6" x 9"

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Strengthening American Democracy: Reflection, Action, and Reform

  • Publication Date: May 23, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781554816279 / 1554816270
  • 192 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 toward a “more perfect Union.”

Comments

“In these compelling and concise essays, John R. Baker highlights the conflict between democratic ideals and the present reality of American politics. Yet this is not a pessimistic book. Baker asks Americans to think about what can and should be changed in the political system—and in our individual actions and attitudes—to bring about better and more democratic politics.” — Scott R. Meinke, Department of Political Science, Bucknell University

“Baker has crafted a series of brief, engaging essays that encourage readers to engage in lively, thoughtful conversations that take them to the heart of what ails our polity. Organized around the principle that we must reclaim spaces for reasoned discussion among people who hold a variety of views, this book helps show the way to a brighter future where we can better communicate with each other despite our differences.” — Wayne Barnett, Executive Director, Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission

“Finally! A book I can use to structure my classroom discussions on the future of America’s democracy and how my students can help keep it afloat.” — Brianna N. Mack, Department of Politics and Government, Ohio Wesleyan University

Preface

Part I: Democratic Deconsolidation and American Democracy

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 Is 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. The Gap between 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 the 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 a 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 American’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

Notes
Works Cited
Glossary
Index

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.