Democracy’s Ghosts: Fear and Hope in the 2020 Election

In a blockbuster cover story, The Atlantic declared November 3, “The Election That Could Break America.” Election experts and scholars are openly discussing possibilities usually reserved for authoritarian regimes: a refusal to transfer power by a sitting president, disinformation, calls for private citizens to “watch” polling places, voter suppression, and fraud.

In this recording of a livestreamed Humanities Washington event, professors Cynthia Stavrianos, Christopher Parker, Travis Ridout, and Johann Neem explore the dynamics that led to this moment. American democracy has never fully lived up to its ideals, from centuries-old problems like the disenfranchisement of voters of color, to modern problems like social media disinformation. How bad have things become in comparison? What are the forces bearing down on the 2020 election? How have the two presidential campaigns reflected our tumultuous and polarized era? Is American democracy in danger, or is there reason for hope?

Cynthia Stavrianos is an associate professor of political science at Gonzaga University and chair of women’s and gender studies. Christopher S. Parker is a political science professor at the University of Washington, and he researches and teaches American politics, minority and race politics, civil rights, and social movements. Travis N. Ridout is a political science professor at the Washington State University, where he researches and teaches government and public policy. The event was moderated by Johann Neem, history professor at Western Washington University.


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