For former US Attorney General Eric Holder, gerrymandering is at the root of many of the most prominent political debates unfolding across the country today. A fairer voting system, Holder believes, wouldn’t tilt the balance towards one political party, but would level the playing field for both voters and political parties.
Written by Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School and Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative
For the last forty years, a determined attack on our democracy has been funded by a small cadre of right-wing billionaires. The leaders of this effort are determined to ensure that the decisions of government benefit the corporations and the wealthy, and they have recognized that in order to win on the substance — taxation, deregulation, shrinking government, preventing redistribution — they have to undercut the very structures of our democracy.
Are democracies in peril? The Harvard Kennedy School started the fall 2017 semester with this question and as we enter January the answer still seems elusive. In the past couple of months we've watched Kenya's roller coaster elections, the transformation of Turkish politics and civil society, protests in Venezuela, continued support for populist parties across the globe, and more. Pundits prophetize both a better future and the deterioration and destruction of democracy.
So, what's going to happen in the new year? We asked some of the Ash Center's democracy experts to share their thoughts.
In 2010, disenchantment with the sluggish pace of the country’s economic recovery and concern about President Obama’s signature health care reform law led to Republicans up and down the ballot scoring significant electoral gains across the country. Perhaps nowhere was that landslide victory more powerful than in Wisconsin. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican, beat his Democratic opponent to capture the governor’s mansion in Madison. Badger State Republicans also won majorities in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate, giving them full control of the state government.... Read more about Rebuilding Our Democracy Through Redistricting Reform
“I was a misfit, not book-smart,” reflects HlaHla Win, MC/MPA ‘16. After the ninth grade, Win walked out of her schoolin Myanmar and didn’t return.Fifteen years later,shewalked across the stage at Harvard Kennedy School’s 2016 commencement and into her role as founder and CEO of a social enterprise named 360oed.Win’s dedication to transforming the antiquated education system that impeded her early learning fueled an over decade-long journey from dropout to social entrepreneur.... Read more about Teaching in Technicolor: Alumna Transforms Myanmar Education with Virtual Reality
rowing up in Norway, Odd Arne Westad lived on the frontier of the Cold War. While the fjords and tundra of this Scandinavian nation may not evoke the iconic images of Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie or the Korean peninsula’s demilitarized zone, for Westad, the S.T. Lee Professor of US-Asia Relations and Ash Center resident faculty affiliate, the Cold War was an omnipresent fact of life. “Norway was a kind of frontline state with regard to the Cold War,” says Westad.... Read more about Odd Arne Westad: On the Global Roots of the Cold War
Picking courses is no easy feat. An array of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Harvard University, and other university courses are available for HKS students to choose from. To aid interested students, the Ash Center publishes an annual guide to identify courses offered by the various faculties of Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, and beyond that are relevant to the study of democratic governance, innovation, and technology.... Read more about 2017-18 Course Guide for Harvard Kennedy School Students
odern technology has amplified human productivity, created networks of individuals worlds apart, and streamlined our day-to-day lives, bringing the world to our fingertips. From our personal lives to business, we clamor to apply technology to increase efficiency and advance our activities. Should we apply technology to our democracy with the same fervor? How can we meld modern technology with practices and institutions born well before the age of the light bulb, let alone the computer? What are the social and ethical risks of automating tasks typically reserved for humans? During the 2016–2017 academic year, seven Technology and Democracy Fellows at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation embarked on a mission to tackle these profound questions.... Read more about Technology and Democracy Fellows Ignite Civic-Tech Discussion
Like most states, the once-a-decade process of drawing new legislative boundaries in California was hardly an exercise in participatory democracy. The redistricting process was historically controlled by the state legislature and maps were drawn in secret, designed to extract maximum political advantage for incumbent officeholders. The results were clear. In 2002, the first election cycle for the US House of Representatives in California using the state’s then-newly adopted legislative boundaries, saw not a single incumbent in California’s 53-person large congressional delegation...
Kate O'Gorman, MPA '17, inaugural democratic governance award-winner, is passionate about improved policy implementation and her local government.
Like many of her fellow HKS graduates, Kate O’Gorman is saying her last goodbyes to Cambridge and the Harvard campus after having just completed her Master in Public Administration (MPA). This commencement season has been a busy one for O’Gorman who in addition to her newly minted master’s degree was also the inaugural recipient of the Ash Center’s Martha H. Mauzy Award for Advancement of Democratic Governance.... Read more about Meet the 2017 Martha H. Mauzy Award Winner
Following the announcement of the establishment of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, we sat down with Miles Rapoport, Senior Democracy Practice Fellow at the Ash Center, to discuss the commission, its composition, and whether it could be an effective force for improving election laws, procedures, and administration.
On May 3, 2017, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Yes Europe Lab hosted Luigi Di Maio, Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament and a leader of the Five Star Movement, Italy's leading opposition political party. Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship and HKS Academic Dean provided opening remarks. ... Read more about Video & Text: A Conversation with Luigi Di Maio