Democracy in 2018

January 2, 2018
Hands
From free and fair elections to voter participation, what will happen to democracy in 2018?

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. 

Teresa AcunaTeresa Acuña
Associate Director for Democratic Governance
 
If we can learn anything from last year, it's that anything is possible.  With the growing concern about the direction the country is headed in, there is no denying that Americans are fired up!  We see people mobilizing at the ballot box and taking the leap to become candidates.

The growing wave of women and individuals from underrepresented communities will lead to exciting races across the country at every level of government.  Young voters concerned with the future they will inherit are a force to be reckon with. 
 
This energy could very much cause the political pendulum to swing at the national and state levels and introduce yet another interesting dynamic to our democracy and policy priorities.
 
Glen MpaniGlen Mpani
Ford Foundation Mason Student Fellow
MC-Mason '18
 
In 2018 many democracies in Africa will remain threatened by poor political party policies, candidate selection, and intra-party democracy. Limited support for political parties will leave them at the mercy of the elite, corrupt, rich, and wealthy.
 
Miles RapoportMiles Rapoport
Senior American Democracy Practice Fellow
 
2018 promises to be a year of major civic energy and political participation.  Absent an international or constitutional crisis, I think the number of candidates, campaign volunteers, and voter turnout will be high in the midterm elections.  This could cause significant shifts not only in Congress but in state legislatures and governor’s mansions, and that in turn could make the 2019 legislatures the sites of significant initiatives for democracy reforms, including expansion of voting opportunities, and fairer processes for redistricting.
 
Ashley SpillaneAshley Spillane
Roy and Lila Ash Student Fellow
MC-MPA '18
 
American democracy is up against some of its biggest threats in our country's history; but there are reasons for hope as we head into 2018. People from all over the country are speaking up and making their voices heard. Elected officials have received a record number of calls this year. There have been enormous marches and demonstrations against the administration's attempts to restrict the first amendment and curb citizens' rights. And young people, who turned out at higher rates in 2017 than in recent off-years, are likely to show up at the polls in force in 2018.  
 

The Ash Center is dedicated to researching, discussing, and sharing ways to make democracy work. Interested in learning more? Check out Harvard Kennedy School's Make Democracy Work Initiative, upcoming Ash Center democracy events, and related democracy content

See also: Ash Features, 2018