Publications

    Strengthening Models of Civic Engagement: Community-Informed Approaches to Inclusive and Equitable Decision-Making

    Archon Fung, Hollie Russon Gilman, and Mark Schmitt; July 2022

    For too long the federal policymaking process has been mysterious and inaccessible to everyone but the most sophisticated, elite stakeholders. Not only has this made the policymaking process exclusive to long-standing players with connections and resources, but it has also made it extremely difficult for most Americans, especially those from underrepresented communities, to be engaged in authentic ways with federal agencies and institutions.

    The costs of such exclusion are evident: Federal policies created and implemented without meaningful input from local leaders and residents are less efficient, less effective, and more likely to perpetuate the very systems of injustice they are often designed to disrupt or reverse. In contrast, inclusive engagement demonstrably increases the efficacy and legitimacy of federal policy, triggering a virtuous cycle of feedback and trust between government and the people.

    When the Biden-Harris administration took office, one of their very first acts was to issue an executive order to advance equity and racial justice throughout federal agencies and institutions. This was quickly followed by orders intended to transform the experience of interacting with government, modernize the federal regulatory process, and strengthen tribal consultations and nation-to-nation relationships. Together, these efforts push the executive branch to improve equity and racial justice through more inclusive policy processes.

    Democratizing the Federal Regulatory Process: A Blueprint to Strengthen Equity, Dignity, and Civic Engagement through Executive Branch Action

    Archon Fung, Hollie Russon Gilman, and Mark Schmitt; September 2021 

    While legislation tends to get more attention, the regulatory process within the executive branch is at the core of day-to-day democratic governance. Federal regulation and rule-making engages dozens of agencies and affects every American. In writing the rules and regulations to implement laws, revise standards, and exercise the substantial authority granted to the presidency, the agencies of the federal government set directions, priorities, and boundaries for our collective life. At times, the regulatory process has moved the country in the direction of greater justice, equality, and security. At other times, it has pulled us in other directions, often with little public engagement or debate.

    The Biden-Harris administration acknowledged the centrality of the regulatory process with two actions on the President’s first day in office. The first called for modernizing the regulatory review process, particularly the central oversight role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The second was an executive order calling on the federal government to support underserved communities and advance racial equity. To understand the challenges to and advantages of a reformed regulatory review process, New America’s Political Reform Program and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government convened a group of academic experts from across the country to share their findings on the state of regulatory review and to identify alternative measures of not just the cost of regulations, but also the distributional impact of their costs and benefits. These experts specialize in administrative law, economic analysis, public participation, and regulatory review, and their work covers policy areas including patent law, healthcare, and environmental justice.

    The Judicial Tug of War
    Sen, Maya, and Adam Bonica. 2020. The Judicial Tug of War. Cambridge University Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

    Maya Sen and Adam Bonica, Cambridge University Press, December 2020 

    Why have conservatives decried 'activist judges'? And why have liberals - and America's powerful legal establishment - emphasized qualifications and experience over ideology? This transformative text tackles these questions with a new framework for thinking about the nation's courts, 'the judicial tug of war', which not only explains current political clashes over America's courts, but also powerfully predicts the composition of courts moving forward. As the text demonstrates through novel quantitative analyses, a greater ideological rift between politicians and legal elites leads politicians to adopt measures that put ideology and politics front and center - for example, judicial elections. On the other hand, ideological closeness between politicians and the legal establishment leads legal elites to have significant influence on the selection of judges. Ultimately, the judicial tug of war makes one point clear: for good or bad, politics are critical to how judges are selected and whose interests they ultimately represent.