PublicSquare Seminars

Nathaniel Persily – April 2018 Can Democracy Survive The Internet?

Nathaniel Persily – April 2018 Can Democracy Survive The Internet?

The Internet was once seen as a democratizing force, but today social media platforms have become exploitable intermediaries of political discourse. The velocity of online information and viral communication can easily create dysfunction in campaigns and within democracy. And for a relatively small investment in resources, a country’s media can be infiltrated by bots, trolls, hackers and leakers, without leaving much evidence of who sponsored the attack. In addition, through the use of algorithms that create “filter bubbles” and echo chambers, the Internet is further polarizing public opinion. How should governments, institutions, tech companies, communities, and individuals respond? How do we repair polarization created by the Internet?

Nathaniel Persily is the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and co-director of the Stanford Project on Democracy and the Internet. A nationally recognized constitutional law expert, frequent media commentator, as well as award-winning educator, he is the editor of Solutions to Political Polarization in America, a contributor to The Washington Post and The New York Times, and the author of a work-in-progress that explores the Internet’s impact on U.S. democracy. A sought-after nonpartisan voice on voting rights, Persily has served as a special master or court-appointed expert to craft congressional or legislative districting plans for Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from Yale; a J.D. from Stanford where he was President of the Stanford Law Review, and a Ph.D. in political science from UC Berkeley.

This event made possible through the generosity of George Gelles and Christine Garvey.

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Seminar Readings

Nathaniel Persily, “The Campaign Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” The American Interest, vol. 11, no. 2, Oct. 10, 2015
Nathaniel Persily, “Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” Journal of Democracy vol. 28, April 2017

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Jeff Greenfield – March 2018 What Leads to a Constitutional Crisis?

Jeff Greenfield – March 2018 What Leads to a Constitutional Crisis?

What does it take for the most venerable, stable, and free government in the world to undergo a genuine Constitutional crisis? Jeff Greenfield argues that such a crisis would not emerge overnight, nor would it be the consequence of any one election or leader. Rather, it would take a steady erasure of beliefs and assumptions held across political and ideological lines, as well as an erosion of trust not just in politics, but in major institutions as well. Are there signs that we are moving toward such an atmosphere? If so, what can be done to alter that course?

Jeff Greenfield is a five-time Emmy-winning network correspondent and best-selling author who, during a career spanning more than three decades, has served as senior political correspondent for CBS, senior analyst for CNN, political and media analyst for ABC News, and contributing correspondent for PBS’ “News Hour Weekend.” Best known for his coverage of domestic politics and media, he has been a floor reporter or anchor booth analyst for every national convention since 1988. He was formerly a columnist for Time, Yahoo! News, and the New York Observer and is currently one for Politico and The Daily Beast. Greenfield has authored or co-authored 14 books, including a national bestselling novel (The People’s Choice: A Cautionary Tale) and several alternate histories of American politics (Then Everything Changed, 43*: When Gore Beat Bush, and If Kennedy Lived). Greenfield graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin where he was editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal. He graduated with honors from the Yale Law School where he was a Note and Comment Editor of the Yale Law Journal.

This event made possible through the generosity of the Poomer Fund, Santa Barbara Foundation, courtesy of Anne Smith Towbes.

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Seminar Readings

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, “This is How Democracies Die,” The Guardian (January 21, 2018)
David Frum, “How to Build an Autocracy,” The Atlantic (March, 2017) 

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Elaine Kamarck – January 2018 Who Nominates?

Elaine Kamarck – January 2018 Who Nominates?

Elaine Kamarck gives a history of the presidential nomination system in the United States and how it differs from the nomination system in almost every other democracy in the world. In particular she discusses how and why the system changed dramatically from Eisenhower to Trump and what it means for the kinds of choices we get in November.

Elaine Kamarck is Senior Fellow in the Governance Studies program as well as the Director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is an expert on government innovation and reform in the United States and countries around the world. In addition, her research focuses on the presidential nomination system and American politics and she has participated actively in four presidential campaigns and ten nominating conventions. Kamarck is the author of Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know about How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates (updated edition, Brookings Institution Press, 2016) and Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again. Her other publications include How Change Happens—or Doesn’t: The Politics of US Public Policy and The End of Government… As We Know It: Making Public Policy Work. She makes regular media appearances (ABC, CBS, NBC, the BBC, CNN, NPR, and Fox News Now) and writes articles on current political affairs, most recently “Reforming Government First Requires Understanding It,” The Atlantic (March 28, 2017). Kamarck received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Seminar Readings

Elaine Kamarck, “Re-Inserting Peer Review in the American Presidential Nomination Process,” Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings (April, 2017)

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