The American public’s trust in government, and especially in Congress, the central institution of representative democracy in the U.S., stands near all-time lows. In this mistrust of democratic institutions, Americans are not alone in the world. Yet they are right to worry. The U.S. system, with its complex array of checks and balances, usually requires broad consensus to function. But this consensus rarely emerges in this era of ideological polarization, close two-party competition, and hyperpartisanship. Meanwhile, policy challenges continue to mount, amidst growing economic, social, and political inequalities. The Anxieties of Democracy program’s Working Group on Institutions was created to address contemporary concerns about the performance and legitimacy of representative political institutions.
Co-chaired by Professors Frances Lee (University of Maryland) and Nolan McCarty (Princeton University), this group operates under two assumptions: first, polarized parties are a fact of life, given the long evolutionary processes that have ideologically sorted the parties and that have finally brought U.S. parties into alignment with those in other advanced democracies. Second, major constitutional reform altering the U.S. system will not be forthcoming. If these two assumptions are correct, what does this mean for policymaking, federalism, and the functioning of American institutions of government?
Products will aim to stimulate and reorient social scientific work on government institutions, linked to the study of social movements and institutions in the United States and elsewhere.
For news and announcements about this working group and other Anxieties of Democracy program activities, please click here: @SSRCdemocracy.
Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
Susan Dod Brown Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University
Donald E. Stokes Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, Harvard University
Associate Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Northwestern University
Jack L. Walker, Jr. Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan
Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Associate Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University
Research Scholar, Princeton University
Clinton Rossiter Professor of American Institutions, Cornell University
Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, Columbia University
David J. Samuels
Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota
Jeffrey and Ashley McDermott Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Director, Political Reform Program, New America Foundation
Associate Professor of Politics and Data Science, New York University
Charles Stewart III
Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology