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
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
By now, most are familiar with the trope expounding on the transformative power of data in our society today. We see its manifestation in nearly every part of our lives, from how we shop for goods to the route we take on the commute to work or school. For cities, the impact of data has the potential to be no less transformational, and city halls around the country are grappling with how best to integrate this seemingly endless array of information into their decision-making processes. Increasingly, the job of making sense of and harnessing this data to improve governance is falling to a new category of city hall staffer: the chief data officer (CDO).... Read more about Civic Analytics Network: Helping Cities Unlock the Power of Data
In 2016, for every dollar earned by men, women in the Greater Boston Area earned 77 cents, according to a recent report from the Boston Women’s Workforce Council. The city could wait for the wage gap to close over time — estimates by the American Association of University Women say the US will reach equity around 2152, or do something about it. For MaryRose Mazzola MPP ’15, doing nothing has never been an option, and today she is actively involved in closing Boston’s wage gap as executive director of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council.
Over half a century after the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba — the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is still waiting for its first peaceful transition of political power.
Though Congo’s constitution required the country’s current president Joseph Kabila to step down from office last December as his second five-year term as president ended, elections have again been postponed — and few observers have faith that voting will take place anytime soon. Among this group is Tom O’Bryan...