The Long Rise and Short Decline of American Democracy

Lecture Description

I argue that the rise of American democracy took nearly 180 years, and the architects were decidedly not the founding fathers but working people, African Americans, immigrants, women, abolitionists, radicals, and the dispossessed. While the true genius of the drafters of the Constitution and Bill of Rights has been to limit government power so as to preclude the rise of an oligarchy, monarchy, or dictatorship, and to protect fundamental civil rights, they did not establish what we today think of as a democracy—that is popular, unfettered participation of the people in election-based, representative government. As a nation, we don’t achieve a semblance of this until the mid-1960s with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the enfranchisement of African Americans. Yet, even after 1965, the democratization of the U.S. is still incomplete and, in fact, experiencing a roll back.


Politics Social and Cultural

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