Following the 2016 presidential election, senior advisor to then President Barack Obama Valerie Jarret and First Lady Michelle Obama poured over election return data. “Michelle Obama and I did a lot of soul searching trying to figure out what happened,” said Jarrett during a virtual discussion moderated by Harvard Law School Lester Kissel Professor of Law David Wilkins, hosted by Harvard Votes Challenge, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and Institute of Politics, this Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day. “I think the number that really jumped out at us was that nearly 100 million eligible Americans did not vote. That’s a big number in a country that depends on democracy, which requires civic engagement and participation at the most fundamental level.”
As election season descends across the country and the political rhetoric emanating out of Washington only becomes more bitter, something rare happened last week on Capitol Hill—large bipartisan majorities passed one of the most far-reaching pieces of conservation legislation in a generation. The bill, known as the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) will pump billions of dollars into overdue repairs and maintenance of the country’s national parks and permanently fund a slew of other federal conservation programs. President Trump tweeted his support ahead of its passage before the House and is expected to sign the bill later this month.
As the National Party Congress, China’s annual legislative session, concludes, the Ash Center sat down with Director Anthony Saich, Daewoo Professor of International Affairs to discuss a new security law previewed during the convening that could define the future of Beijing’s relationship to Hong Kong.
In March, as the spread of COVID-19 across large swaths of the US effectively shuttered much of the country’s economy, millions of newly unemployed were left wondering how they would be able to pay rent. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, where nearly 60 percent of residents are renters, imposed COVID-related prohibitions on evictions. LA’s eviction moratorium required that renters who had lost jobs due to the pandemic notify their landlords in writing that they would be unable to pay rent.
On January 1, 2017, Michelle Obama moved out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and became former first lady of the United States. "I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It's enough," she told Vogue magazine.
For two months during the fall of 2016, the darkest corners and forgotten spaces in Albany, New York, were brought shining back to life. Thousands of abandoned buildings can be found in New York’s capital city, emptied in the wake of a manufacturing exodus from the region. But, for a short period, hundreds of buildings were transformed at night as gentle pulsing lights, mimicking the soft rhythm of human breath, shone through the windows.... Read more about The Voices of Vacant Homes
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation sat down with Katharine Robb, a postdoctoral research fellow at the center’s Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative where she has been conducting research on housing and health in Chelsea, Mass. This densely populated city adjacent to Boston has seen some of the worst COVID-19 infection rates in the state. Robb completed her doctorate in public health degree at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2019.
We recently sat down with Zach Graves, a 2019 Technology and Democracy Fellow, head of policy at the Lincoln Network, and author of “Science, Technology, and Democracy: Building a Modern Congressional Technology Assessment Office,” a new paper offering recommendations and a road map for resurrecting a technology assessment capability in Congress... Read more about Convincing Congress to Remove its Tech Policy Blinders
A detailed analysis of midterm voter turnout figures from the 2018 elections shows that the percentage of eligible Harvard students who turned up at the polls nearly doubled when compared to the last midterm elections in 2014.
The red brick and weathered stone of city hall stretch three stories above Manchester, New Hampshire’s central business district, topped by an elaborate, Gothic Revival spire. Sunlight streams through the arched windows of the building into a winding stairwell lined with portraits of city leaders, from 1846 to the present—neat rows climb from black and white to color; all stern gazes, mustaches, and crisp shirt collars. The march of masculinity is broken by the very last portrait—a smiling blonde woman.... Read more about A New Approach In City Hall
Each year, November 19 marks the date of an important revolution in China—World Toilet and China Toilet Revolution Awareness Day. Though washroom puns often accompany headlines about China’s effort to improve the state of its public restrooms, the issue is no laughing matter in the eyes of the country’s leaders. President Xi’s “Toilet Revolution” announcement in 2015 was front-page news in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and a useful cipher for understanding Beijing’s policy priorities. At the time of Xi’s announcement,China’s public bathrooms were described as unhygienic, filthy, crude, anxiety-inducing, and often in short supply. The condition of the country’s bathrooms was both a mounting issue for China’s growing tourism industry as well as an ongoing public health crisis.... Read more about China’s Toilet Revolution
Elizabeth Plantan, a China postdoctoral fellow with the Ash Center, spent her 21st birthday in Irkutsk, Siberia, near Lake Baikal. With windchill, the temperature was minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit. “It's the sort of cold where your eyelashes freeze, but everyone still walks everywhere in the snow,” she recalled.
Plantan, then an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, made the long trek to Irkutsk because she hoped to completely embed herself into Russian culture and community. “I wanted there to be very few foreigners so I wouldn't have any temptation to speak English,” she said of her decision to swap the mild climate of Middletown, Connecticut, for the subarctic Siberian environment.... Read more about A Tale of Two Countries
Jaws drop the first time most students enter Christopher Robichaud’s office. The animated response is fitting for the senior lecturer in public policy’s workspace. On top of, between, and leaning against the books that line nearly every inch of the walls—save the window looking out over John F. Kennedy Memorial Park—are memorabilia ranging from collector-edition action figures to a vintage-inspired Star Wars turntable.
The Ash Center sat down with Jane Mansbridge, Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, to discuss her work developing a package of case studies, simulations, and exercises for teaching effective legislative negotiation aimed at state and federal legislators in the United States... Read more about Jane Mansbridge on Legislative Negotiation
With clipboard often in hand, Ryan Pierannunzi MPP 2019 became something of a noodge around campus. A friendly noodge to be sure. Pierannunzi, who was honored by the Ash Center with the 2019 Martha H. Mauzy Award for the Advancement of Democratic Governance, was a lead student organizer of the Harvard Votes Challenge and worked through much of the 2018 fall semester to help register as many of his eligible HKS classmates to vote as he could. Pierannunzi and his fellow organizers, it turns out, were pretty successful at noodging, as over 90 percent of eligible HKS students ultimately participated in the challenge in the runup to the midterm elections.... Read more about Mauzy Award Winner Ryan Pierannunzi Takes Democracy Reform from the Classroom to the Campaign Trail
If voter participation is the cornerstone of democracy, American democracy is in poor shape, according to Harvard Kennedy School’s Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government. “American democracy would be a lot stronger if all Americans voted. Imagine a future, maybe five years from now, maybe 10 years from now, in which 80 or even 90 percent of Americans voted,” said Fung at the start of a panel discussion on June 27th organized by the Ash Center. “How can we get there?”