The Deep Structure of Democratic Crisis

Ruth Berins Collier and Jake Grumbach in the Boston Review:

The United States faces a democratic crisis, as we have been told for several years now. But what exactly does this mean? On the anniversary of the January 6 attempted coup, the answer may seem obvious: the crisis is perhaps most dramatically seen in the transformation of the national Republican Party, which has abandoned a policy-making role for one that simply seeks power. To this end, it has become intent on exploiting vulnerable state-level institutions to suppress votes, gerrymander districts, and allow partisan actors to overturn the popular vote.

But to understand the threat of democratic backsliding in the United States, it is essential to untangle a variety of explanations of our contemporary crisis. These range from the most proximate to the more structural, and all are important. While most American analysts have focused on the former, however, we want to focus on the latter. We argue, in particular, that the economic transition from industrialism to post-industrialism may be less conducive to democracy, or at least provides an explanation for some important threats to democracy that we are witnessing today. Such a lens puts the analysis of the U.S. crisis in comparative perspective, allowing us to see some common threats across rich, historic democracies as well as the specific features that account for the extreme form it takes in our country.

More here.