Category Archives: Political Polarization

What’s Your “Deep Story?”

When Professor Emerita at UC Berkeley Arlie Hochschild came to speak at the JFK Forum in March, she sparked a conversation around the idea of “deep stories” – the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and the values we share. In this post, Democracy Postdoctoral Fellow LaGina Gause offers a “deep story” that she feels might resonate with liberals more than the one described by Hochschild. If you have an alternate “deep story,” we invite you to share with us in the comments below.

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Filed under Democracy Program, Political Polarization

Race, Public Opinion, and the Fight Over Reparations in the Age of Obama

10525869_10101202330137563_2072457776631529863_nOn November 8, 2015, Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy, moderated a discussion between Michael C. Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago, and Walter Johnson, the Winthrop Professor of History at Harvard University. The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation sponsored the event as part of the Race and American Politics seminar series. The discussion between the two professors primarily examines the common objections to reparations for the African enslavement in the United States. This post presents the main arguments for and against reparations as presented by Professors Dawson and Johnson.

The Ash Center’s Race and American Politics Series is a multidisciplinary series of seminars and round-table conversations led by Leah Wright Rigueur. Co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the series features academic, practitioner, and journalistic perspectives from across the nation on the most pressing political and social issues related to race in the United States. Read other posts covering the Race and American Politics seminar series here.

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Filed under Inequality vs Democracy, Political Polarization, Race and American Politics

If Harvard Students Ran the Senate

PhamOn February 19th, 2016, almost 100 students from across Harvard University filed into the life-sized Senate Chamber at the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, Massachusetts to participate in the inaugural, student-run Kennedy Senate Simulation. Spearheaded by Michael Thng (MPP ’16) and a team of Kennedy School students, the simulation placed students in positions of current Senators, both Republican and Democrat, to deliberate and vote on the Criminal Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 and the Defend America Act.

In this post, HKS student Derek Pham (MPP ’16) reports on how this unique event engaged and challenged tomorrow’s leaders by exposing them to the real problems facing the U.S. government today. This exercise was not only a procedural lesson, but it also helped illuminate why Senate gridlock is the default, and why coalition building and consensus is so difficult. Supported by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the Institute of Politics, and the Center for Public Leadership, the organizing team hope to make the Kennedy Senate Simulation a trademark yearly event at HKS. For pictures from the event, please visit the Kennedy Senate Simulation Facebook page here.

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Filed under Political Polarization, Representation, Students

HUBweek Event Shows Greater Boston is Ripe with Civic Tech

guests 2The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation is a leading research center at the Harvard Kennedy School focused on the intersection of government and technology. We are helping HKS students—our future public leaders—to learn crucial technology skills that they will take with them into their careers. The Center is also studying unanswered questions about the potential and the pitfalls of technology’s role in making government more modern, effective, and efficient as well as more responsive, transparent, and participatory. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Cities, Frontiers of Research, Future of Social Movements, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Political Polarization, Representation, Students, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Daniel Schuman of the Congressional Data Coalition

schumanThis post by Daniel Schuman was originally published by the Congressional Data Coalition. It is the seventh in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a series of not-just-for-technologists hackathons organized by the Ash Center and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three “civic hacks” in Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox), and Washington, DC took place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon then traveled to Washington, DC on May 12 to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. Read more at hack4congress.org!

In this post Daniel Schuman, an experienced advocate for #opengov and #civictech, recaps the May 12, 2015 #Hack4Congress Briefing and Technology Demonstration on Capitol Hill. Schuman then identifies four insights that have emerged from the #Hack4Congress series: significant public enthusiasm exists for using technology to make Congress work better; the greatest improvements in public access to information arise from work done at the federal level; many people still do not know where to find federal legislative information; and civic technologists would benefit from additional guidance from those with experience at the intersection of Congress and technology. You can watch a recording of the entire May 12 briefing and demo in the video below. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Revisiting the Global Prospects for Democracy and Democratization

RM1In this post, Ash Center Research Fellow Richa Mishra follows up on her February 2014 post, Reviewing the Global Prospects for Democracy and Democratization in 2014. In that widely-read review of recent articles and reports on democratic movements, public opinion and democracy promotion efforts, Mishra highlighted the importance of contextual nuance in understanding democratic twists and turns. Below, Mishra revisits her earlier post and offers a comprehensive update on the important themes of political freedom and civil liberties, electoral trends, government legitimacy, and citizen disenchantment. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Corruption, Expansion of Presidential Power, Future of Social Movements, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation

Looking for Inspiration? Five Noteworthy Innovations in Public Participation

participedia2This column profiles five recent entries in Participedia, an open global knowledge community for researchers and practitioners in the field of democratic innovation and public engagement. For more ideas, read our review of Participedia’s top innovations of 2013. Even better, visit Participedia to join the conversation and explore over 400 experiments in new forms of participatory politics and governance.
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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Cities, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Thea Nilsson, ‘No Ordinary Hackathon’ in San Francisco

Thea-Nilsson-300x300This post by Thea Nilsson was originally published by Microsoft Bay Area. It is the fifth in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a series of not-just-for-technologists hackathons organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox), and Washington, DC are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in May to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The Cambridge event took place January 30-February 1 and #Hack4Congress San Francisco was held March 20-22. Read more and register for #Hack4Congress D.C. (April 29-May 1) at hack4congress.org. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

First Chapter: The Loneliness of the Black Republican by Leah Wright Rigueur

leah coverBelow is an excerpt from Leah Wright Rigueur’s 2015 book The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power. An Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Wright Rigueur’s research interests include 20th century United States political and social history and modern African American history, with an emphasis on race, civil rights, political ideology, the American two-party system, and the presidency. Hear more at our book talk with Wright Rigueur on April 1, 2015.

The book examines the “intersection of race, civil rights, conservatism, and party politics” and traces almost half a century between 1936 that marked the political realignment of the new deal and 1980 that heralded the beginning of the Reagan revolution. The author peels away the stereotypes and simplistic characterizations that deem to define African American Republicans. She studies the motivation, efforts and contributions of African American conservatives: activists, officials, middle class professionals and politicians at the local, state and national level who “attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it but rather to expand the boundaries of the ideology in order to include black needs and interests.” Continue reading

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Filed under First Chapter, Frontiers of Research, Political Polarization, Representation

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Derek Pham, ‘Relating, Connecting, and Inspiring’

druThis post by HKS student Derek Pham is the fourth in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Pham recounts the kick-off panel featuring both scholarly and practical perspectives on the challenges facing Congress. He also captures and highlights the insightful voices and ideas of some of the #Hack4Congress participants. Watch and hear more from participants in the video below! Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Daniel E. Levenson, Crowdsourcing Cross-Partisan Dialogue

levenson headshotThis post was originally published by Daniel E. Levenson on 36voices. It is the third in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Levenson reflects on the purpose of the event and on his own participation, including his team’s focus on the critical absence of strong working relationships between members of different parties and its impact on cross-partisan dialogue. More information on their idea, #Match4Democracy, available here. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Political Polarization, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Brandon Andrews, “The Dear Colleagues”

Brandon.Andrews (1)This post was originally published by Brandon Andrews on February 3, 2015. It is the second in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Andrews explains the logic behind and potential for his team’s idea to improve the lawmaking process by replacing the current E-Dear Colleague system used on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: David Moore, Participatory Politics Foundation

dmooreThis post by David Moore was originally published on the Participatory Politics Foundation Blog. It is the first in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Moore gives some history on previous efforts to engage the #civictech and #opengov communities in fixing Congress, including his work on OpenCongress which became one of the most-visited non-profit government transparency websites. Moore also lists the civic tech and congressional experts joining him on our esteemed panel of judges. 

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Congressional Gridlock and the Salience of Public Opinion

congress and prez cartoon largeLast fall, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation hosted a discussion exploring the (then) recent federal government shutdown and the ever-souring relationship between the President and Congress. The talk, part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, featured two renowned Harvard Kennedy School professors Thomas Patterson and David King. Patterson’s research explores the interaction between government and the media. King is a senior lecturer in Public Policy and chair of Harvard’s Bi-Partisan Program for Newly Elected Members of the U.S. Congress. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Expansion of Presidential Power, In the News, Media and Journalism, Political Polarization, Representation

Frontiers of Democracy Research: How Public Deliberation Helps Democracies Adapt Over Time

didierIn this post, recent Ash Center Democracy Fellow Didier Caluwaerts reflects on the dynamic nature of public problems and political power and the challenges this “migration” creates in democratic societies. He also proposes possible solutions, including deliberative democracy models like the G1000 Citizens’ Summit Caluwaerts organized in a divided Belgium in 2011. Continue reading

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Is Humanity the Most Important Ingredient in Public Dialogue?

thumbnailOn April 22, 2014, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Archon Fung moderated a discussion between Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org, and Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. The event was sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy, Jr. Forum. The conversation between Blades and Meckler, two groundbreaking and imaginative innovators who happen to fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum, was an extension of LivingRoomConversations.org, an effort started by Blades to promote respectful, open, and meaningful political conversations among people and across ideological divisions. The following blog post recounts the evening’s highlights. You can watch the entire conversation by clicking on the YouTube link below. Continue reading

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Filed under In the News, Media and Journalism, Political Polarization

Tech Experts from the Right and Left Agree: Digital Allows for Real Engagement, But is Anyone Listening Yet?

The Ash Center recently hosted a panel discussion with Matt Lira, Deputy Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Macon Phillips, Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs at the U.S. Department of State. Moderated by Archon Fung, the discussion provided unique perspectives from both the Right and Left of the US political spectrum on how digital technology is affecting the political landscape. Lira and Phillips agreed upon the transformative role that digital platforms can play in both electoral politics and in more responsive governance, but we still have some time before digital technology reaches its potential as a tool to encourage public participation. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Expansion of Presidential Power, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Bryan Cranston Captures the Virtues and Vices of the Ultimate Politician: LBJ in “All the Way”

On October 6, 2013, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation collaborated with the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) on a performance of Robert Schenkkan’s political drama All the Way. The play focuses on Lyndon B. Johnson’s first year as President with a particular eye to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Bryan Cranston, fresh off of his Breaking Bad success, starred as Johnson. Following the performance, A.R.T. Artistic Director Ryan McKittrick moderated a discussion with actor Michael McKean, who played J. Edgar Hoover in the production, and Alex Keyssar, Stirling Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. The following post highlights elements of the conversation. Continue reading

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Filed under All The Way, Expansion of Presidential Power, In the News, Political Polarization

In the News: Millennials Are Down on Government

Emma Roller reports for National Journal on two surveys that reflect a shift toward the middle and a waning trust in government among Millennials.

Millennials have long been the carbuncle on the GOP’s backside, but these studies suggest some ways that Republicans can make inroads with younger voters. Twentysomethings today are less ideologically “pure” than older voters, and therefore more likely to be swayed to one side or another. Continue reading

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Filed under In the News, Media and Journalism, Political Polarization, Representation

Frontiers of Democracy Research: American Political Science Association Weighs in on Congressional Gridlock

This post highlights a recent report from the American Political Science Association, Negotiating Agreement in Politics: Report of the Task Force on Negotiating Agreement in Politics, edited by Jane Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin. Mansbridge is recent president of APSA and an affiliated faculty member of the Ash Center. The post is part of an occasional series exploring the frontiers of research on democratic governance. The series highlights the work of the Ash Center’s faculty and Democracy Fellows whose research illuminates aspects of democratic governance, with a focus on innovations in public participation and on urgent substantive policy or social problems related to democratic governance. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Frontiers of Research, Political Polarization