Martin Gilens, Professor of Politics, spoke on what empirical studies have shown about the shortcomings of American democracy and how they might be overcome. The talk was chaired by Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics and Director, UCHV
America faces many daunting problems—stagnant wages, high health care costs, neglected schools, deteriorating public services. Yet, our government often seems to ignore the needs of its citizens. Policymakers pay more attention to organized interests than to ordinary Americans, our political parties are dominated by ideological activists, and our government gets bogged down in partisan gridlock and inaction. The solution to these problems is more democracy: more equal opportunity for citizens to shape what their government does. To strengthen our democracy we must change the way we choose candidates and conduct our elections, reform the internal rules of our governing institutions, and curb the power of private money in our politics. By forcing political parties and officeholders to respond to the preferences of ordinary Americans, we can reduce polarization and gridlock, address pressing challenges, and enact policies that better reflect the interests of average Americans.
Co-sponsored by the Program in American Studies, the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics and the Department of Politics.