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Using explanatory journalism to fight polarization and dysfunction

Thomas Mann, resident scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies | March 4, 2016

In the present-day world of media and politics, we live (as the saying goes) in the best of times and the worst of times. A motivated consumer of information on politics and policy — the ideal citizen in a representative democracy — has access to an unprecedented number of sources of excellent journalism in a … Continue reading »

Donald Trump and friendly fascism reconsidered

Charles Henry, professor emeritus, African American studies | August 7, 2015

Donald Trump’s entrance into the presidential sweepstakes and substantial lead in the polls reminds me of the warnings issued 35 years ago in Bertram Gross’s widely read Friendly Fascism. Gross was concerned that the ever-closer integration of Big Business and Big Government could well lead to a new, kinder, gentler form of fascism — a fascism that … Continue reading »

Polarization, policymaking, & public service: A review of Barney Frank’s memoir

Thomas Mann, resident scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies | April 21, 2015

It is not obvious that the memoir of a recently-retired, sixteen-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives is a promising candidate for a book review on government reform.  Vivid narrative, compelling personal stories, passionate advocacy, and lacerating wit may make for a great read.  And Barney Frank’s Frank: A Life in Politics From the … Continue reading »

Unaccountability is bad for public health and democracy

Bruce Newsome, Lecturer in International Relations | March 31, 2015

The British Parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has reported that the authorities for investigating healthcare failures in Britain are too numerous and unaccountable. I am pleased that at least one committee has criticized the structure of British healthcare, but the PASC airily follows all previous inquiries by recommending a lot of cultural change, and … Continue reading »

When a polling place is someone’s garage, is a ‘redesign’ realistic?

Karin Mac Donald, director, Election Administration Research Center | October 31, 2014

I read with interest a recent opinion piece for WIRED magazine titled “America’s polling places desperately need a redesign.” In it, author Ted Selker — an inventor, design consultant and member of the Accessible Voting Team at UC Berkeley — describes the physical limitations of many polling places across the country (where everything from wheelchair … Continue reading »

Pollworker 101: How a few crazy hats can make our democracy stronger

Karin Mac Donald, director, Election Administration Research Center | October 29, 2014

It’s election season in California, which means that the state’s 58 county Registrar of Voters offices are buzzing with activities – everything from designing, printing and mailing ballots to finalizing voter-registration rolls and ordering precinct supplies. Each task that staff in these offices perform factors into an election’s success, and there’s little-to-no room for error: … Continue reading »

Cyberphysical democracy: online platforms and offline action

Camille Crittenden, Deputy Director, CITRIS | May 15, 2014

“The more digital the world becomes, the more appetite people have for real things.” (Alan Rusbriger of  The Guardian, in a  NY Times Magazine interview, March 7, 2014) New platforms for civic engagement are leveraging the power of the Internet to bring constituents’ opinions to the doorstep of the politicians who represent them. The field … Continue reading »

The perils of rail transit and democracy

Ethan Elkind, associate director, Climate Change and Business Program | March 24, 2014

Americans seem to love democracy but hate many of the results. We want governmental power to be decentralized, whether it’s across three federal branches or with local control over sometimes regionally oriented land use decisions. But when the inevitable compromise that is required to get majority approval means a less-than-perfect result, from Obamacare to budget … Continue reading »

The filibuster and the environment

Dan Farber, professor of law | November 25, 2013

In the short run, limiting the filibuster will strengthen the hands of environmental regulators. What about the long run effects? The filibuster arguably served a useful function when it allowed the minority to block action in extraordinary cases where its views were especially intense.  It became no longer tolerable when it became a routine barrier … Continue reading »

Leave election integrity to chance

Philip Stark, professor of statistics | July 17, 2013

How do we know whether the reported winners of an election really won? There’s no perfect way to count votes. To paraphrase Ulysses S. Grant and Richard M. Nixon, “Mistakes will be made.” Voters don’t always follow instructions. Voting systems can be mis-programmed, as they were last year in Palm Beach, Florida. Ballots can be … Continue reading »

The two centers of unaccountable power in America, and their consequences

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | June 17, 2013

There are two great centers of unaccountable power in the American political-economic system today — places where decisions that significantly affect large numbers of Americans are made in secret, and are unchecked either by effective democratic oversight or by market competition. One goes by the name of the “intelligence community” and its epicenter is the … Continue reading »

Hurdles to voter registration limit democracy

Camille Crittenden, Deputy Director, CITRIS | September 24, 2012

Recent efforts to purge voter rolls, impose new restrictions on voter registration drives, and require new levels of identification in order to cast a ballot threaten to limit participation in the upcoming election, especially among low-income and minority voters. One study estimated that as many as 700,000 minority voters under age 30 may be unable … Continue reading »

Washington pre-occupied

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | November 4, 2011

The biggest question in America these days is how to revive the economy. The biggest question among activists now occupying Wall Street and dozens of other cities is how to strike back against the nation’s almost unprecedented concentration of income, wealth, and political power in the top 1 percent. The two questions are related. With … Continue reading »

Governor Walker’s coup d’état

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | March 11, 2011

Governor Scott Walker and his Wisconsin senate Republicans have laid bare the motives for their coup d’état. By severing the financial part of the bill (which couldn’t be passed without absent Democrats) from the part eliminating the collective bargaining rights of public employees (which could be), and then doing the latter, Wisconsin Republicans have made … Continue reading »

The real issues: A Wisconsin update

George Lakoff, professor of linguistics | February 28, 2011

The Wisconsin protests are about much more than budgets and unions. As I observed in What Conservatives Really Want, the conservative story about budget deficits is a ruse to turn the country conservative in every area.  Karl Rove and Shep Smith have made it clear on Fox: If the Wisconsin plan to kill the public … Continue reading »

The Republican shakedown

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | February 25, 2011

You can’t fight something with nothing. But as long as Democrats refuse to talk about the almost unprecedented buildup of income, wealth, and power at the top — and the refusal of the super-rich to pay their fair share of the nation’s bills — Republicans will convince people it’s all about government and unions. Republicans … Continue reading »

Sanity or fear? We decide.

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | November 2, 2010

Today is election day. Elections are about numbers: who wins the most votes? So it seems like a good time to think about two sets of numbers: one the number of voters, registered and likely; the other, the number of people who mobilized this past Saturday in response to a call from two comedians who … Continue reading »