Home and Abroad Series Public Forum: The Future of Democracy

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

James Bryant Conant University Professor and Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

President, Council on Foreign Relations

Yascha Mounk

Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations


Managing Editor for Politics, Axios; Political Analyst, CNN

Home and Abroad Series and Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy

CFR’s inaugural Home and Abroad series public forum on the state of democracy globally discusses the role democracy should occupy in U.S. foreign policy, and actions policymakers, business leaders, civil society, and citizens should consider taking and supporting to promote democratic norms, values, and institutions here and around the world.  

This meeting is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy.


TALEV: Well, thank you, everybody. It is great to virtually see you and thanks for joining us today. I’m at home. Isn’t everybody these days? I’m Margaret Talev, and I’d like to welcome everyone to the inaugural Home and Abroad series virtual public forum hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. We actually have a huge turnout today. I’ll share a little bit more about that as we go on. I’m the managing editor of politics at Axios and a CNN political analyst. I will be presiding over today’s discussion on a nice, light topic, otherwise known as the future of democracy.

As an independent membership organization, think tank, and publisher, CFR, as you all know, serves as a nonpartisan source of information and analysis that helps us advance the understanding of global affairs and the foreign policy choices that face the U.S. and other countries. And this CFR new Home and Abroad series is about exploring issues that are at the nexus of that U.S. domestic and foreign policy space that affect America’s role in the world. These public forums, which we’re kicking off here, will be held on a quarterly basis and each will tackle a different topic. Today’s conversation is going to focus on the state of democracy globally, the role that democracy should occupy inside U.S. foreign policy, and the actions that can be taken to promote democratic norms, values, and institutions both in the U.S. and around the world.

We might not get to every issue, but we’re going to try. We hope that as you’re thinking about questions for the Q&A portion, you can think about the questions that are most important to you and we’ll get in as many as we possibly can. I believe, although, Dr. Haass or the operator later can correct me, that we have more than two thousand people on this call right now. Many of you are newcomers, first timers, and members of the public just getting interested in the work that CFR tackles, so we really want to welcome you, and we’re very glad that you could join us today. As we begin, I do want to thank the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Foundation for generous support of CFR’s new Project on the Future of Democracy. And, as we get underway, please check your links. You have their full bios. They represent a great amount of thought in this area and some terrific institutions. I’d like to welcome, of course, Dr. Haass, Dr. Allen, and Dr. Mounk. Hi, everybody. As a reminder today, this discussion is, of course, on the record. It’s going to be posted later on CFR’s website.

Now as we get underway, we’re about to have a conversation. But as we start that we’d like to ask everyone who’s joining us today, online, if you would share your own views on the state of democracy. And as we do this, you’re going to see on your screen here five poll questions. So go ahead, and please let us know your thoughts on the following. You can see these questions as we go. The first is “How important is it for you to live in a democracy?” “How concerned are you about the state of democracy in the U.S.?” Again, you have the same three choices—”very concerned,” “somewhat concerned,” or “not concerned.” “Which of the following do you believe is the greatest threat to American democracy?” You’ll see several choices come up on your screen. I don’t want to get too far ahead of you, but the next is, you have a few choices on this question of the greatest threat to American democracy—“consolidation of control and authority by groups in power,” “contraction of voting rights and distrust in elections,” “economic inequality,” “political polarization and unraveling social cohesion,” or the “lack of regulation on social media platforms.” Question four is a “yes” or “no,” journalists’ favorite kind of questions, “Should the United States pressure other countries to be more democratic?” And finally, and this has been a hot topic for quite a while, but “Should a national civics course be developed and be required to be taught in every high school in America?” “Yes or no?” So as you’re going through these questions, just click “submit” after you’ve made your answers. We’ll give you a few more seconds and those will be compiled, and we’ll get to share those results.

Okay, does anyone need more time? There we go. Terrific. All right. So this will help us to get underway. “How important is it for you to live in a democracy?” Okay, 96 percent said “very important.” So I think there’s, we can call it a consensus. “How concerned are you about the state of democracy in the U.S.?” About two-thirds saying they’re “very concerned,” and pretty much everyone else saying “they’re somewhat concerned.” There’s a little bit more of a split here, “Which do you think is the greatest threat to American democracy?” So, “consolidation of power and authoritarianism,” that’s about 1 in 10 of you. “Voting rights,” and of course this has been a big issue in recent months, close to a third saying that that is the greatest threat. “Economic equality,” obviously, always an issue, but particularly in the pandemic—about 1 in 10 of you. “Lack of regulation on social media platforms,” a smaller percentage, just 3 percent. And, of course, the biggest chunk here, just about half saying that “political polarization and the decrease in social cohesion” is the greatest threat. All of these, I think, are on concurrent display right now. So, it gives us a lot of food for thought for our conversation. “Should the U.S. pressure other countries to be more democratic?” Actually not a consensus here. A majority says “yes.” That’s about 6 in 10, but about 4 in 10 say “no,” the U.S. doesn’t have any business pressuring other countries to be more democratic. I’m actually surprised by this one, but maybe it’s just the crowd—92 percent say that a national civics course should be not just an option, but mandatory in high schools across America. So okay, we’ve got a lot to unpack here.

We’re going to kick off the conversation and start thinking about, everyone at home or at work, what you want to ask because after, you know, twenty-five minutes or so we’re going to turn to the audience, and we’d love to hear from you on what’s on your mind. Dr. Haass, can I kick it off with you because I just want to ask the most basic of questions, which is what do you think of and what do we mean when we talk about democracy? Is there one definition of democracy? And if there are different definitions, what’s kind of the cohesive definition that all democracies have in common?

HAASS: Well, thank you, Margaret. Great to be with two panelists who know an awful lot more about just about every question you’re going to ask than I do. There isn’t a single widely accepted or universally accepted definition of democracy. There certainly is not a single form of democracy. But I think it’s fair to say that all democracies, or all systems that deserve to be termed democracies, have certain features in common. They share certain attributes about the rights of individuals or the limits to the power of the state, of government and authority. Usually there’s a degree of transparency and accountability. In certain democracies you have distributed power—so one individual or one part of a government can’t rule in an absolute fashion and so forth. So what there is, is a degree, again, of distributed authority; distributed power; certain protection of basic rights; limits to governmental authority; a degree of transparency, accountability, and recourse—that you have independent institutions; and you have certain protected processes and procedures where if individuals have concerns they’re allowed to pursue them—obviously the courts but other procedures and institutions as well.

TALEV: Before I move on, you know, I do want to follow up: having set out that definition, how would you, I guess, how would you rate the health or the robustness of American democracy right now? I know some reports have shown it declining vis-a-vis other Western nations and putting it kind of in the Romania category. Do you share that view?

HAASS: Look, what was really interesting—I can’t remember the  number of the question, but one of the questions asked everybody what they—and if I have the numbers right, something like half of the respondents were “very concerned” about the state of American democracy. And another thirty or so were “somewhat concerned.” If you add those two together, then you’re up, what, 80-plus percent. That’s extraordinary. My guess is if we had had this conversation five years ago, you would not have had such high numbers. Indeed, we might not have had this conversation five years ago. Implicit in doing this event is we are concerned. Again, I can’t wait to hear from others, but the answer is yes, I am that concerned. Let me put it this way. I’m constantly asked—my specialty is not democracy, my specialty is American foreign policy—but I am regularly asked, “What is the biggest threat to the United States?” Is it China? Is it Russia? Is it North Korea? Is it Iran? Is it climate change? Those are all serious threats. I get it, but it’s not one of them. If people go, “What is it?” I go, “It’s us.” It is the quality of American democracy. It is our declining social cohesion. It is our declining ability to get things accomplished. January 6 was simply one of the most awful manifestations of that. But I actually think, and this is something I never thought I’d say, Margaret, but I actually think we reached a point where the functioning of American democracy, where domestic peace and order and functionality, can’t be assumed. And so, yes, I am—put me in the “very concerned” majority or plurality of people who answered that question.

TALEV: Thanks, Richard. Danielle, I want to move to you and ask you of those poll questions that we all participated in at the start here, which results stood out the most to you?

ALLEN: Thanks so much, Margaret. The question about social cohesion did but before I say more about that, I want to actually revisit the definition of democracy. So just to underscore—

HAASS: Oh, good.

ALLEN: —a good point that there are multiple ways of defining democracy and the like. It’s actually important, I think, to put a few others on the table, too. Very often people confuse democracy with majoritarianism. They think that a democracy is simply a matter of majority vote. This is a misconception. A democracy is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. And what that fundamentally means is it’s a set of institutions that empower ordinary people to achieve collective decision-making together. In that regard, those institutions do need, as Richard said, to distribute power. And that requires a combination of mechanisms. Sometimes you use majority vote. Sometimes you need minority-protecting mechanisms. That’s partly about the story of rights and what rights secure. Sometimes you’re able to do things by way of developing consensus or using other kinds of procedures of deliberation to achieve a result. But the important thing is that you have a dynamic set of interacting mechanisms that, consistently over time, distribute power throughout the whole population, empower ordinary people, ensure the responsiveness and accountability of political institutions, and achieve equal representation across the whole of the population. So that’s how I would start with a definition of democracy. These are related to each other in that features of what Richard called out are really about the, sort of, operations of a healthy democracy and I think some of the things we’ve learned about rule of law, rights protection, and transparency and accountability.

But I just wanted to make the point that the real goal is that broad empowerment of people for a project of self-government. In that regard that does underscore the problem when you have polarization and social cohesion. You have breakdowns in social cohesion. If the whole project is about ensuring that we can actually make decisions together, then when you see those kinds of results you understand that the project is breaking. Speaking for myself, personally, I have been very concerned about the health of our democracy since 2013. And for me, the red alarm bell that triggered—at this point a years-long project of thinking about the health of our democracy—was when Congress had an approval rating of 9 percent. If you’re a historian of democracy or a theorist of democracy, you understand that the legislative branch is the first branch. It is the people’s voice. That is how we are intended to articulate a strategic direction for ourselves as a society. If the people approves of its own voice at the rate of 9 percent, your democracy is broken. So since 2013 I have been on a sort of five-alarm-fire orientation toward the health of our democracy.

TALEV: That’s not what I thought you were going to say. When you said 2013 I thought you were going to say a Voting Rights Act decision that set a number of other concerns in motion. I want to get to Yascha, and then I think all of us need to talk a little bit before we get to questions about the filibuster and some of the debate that’s going on now about how stuff works or doesn’t work. But Danielle, I do want to ask you also about the last year. So much of the last year has been defined by these two parallel events or movements or crises that we’ve been going through. One is racial injustice, systemic racism, the death of George Floyd, and many other events that sort of kicked off a massive year of social protests, some change, and national introspection. And then, of course, coronavirus, the pandemic, which exposed all of the, you know, the different levels of inequality and unfairness and injustice in the country and kind of the fault lines of democracy. Right? And so, you know, I’m wondering how these two events reflect the state of the U.S. democracy and how the U.S. has compared to other democracies in terms of how we’ve managed through these massive societal and health tests and economic tests?

ALLEN: Well, there is a relationship between these two very substantial challenges. If you think again about the history of constitutional democracy and go back to the eighteenth century, you had the invention of these structures for self-governance that went hand in hand with the invention of structures for, I’ll call it the “racial administration of peoples,” okay? So I’m going to avoid some of the jargon words that we use, but it’s a simple fact that across the colonial world in the colonies in the U.S., in places like India, in places like Brazil, you had both the invention of tools for self-governance for a limited population and then also the invention of tools for literally administering different racial categories of people. These things were glued together. And in this country since 1965, with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, we have for the first time undertaken to build the components of a constitutional democracy on the base of a true affirmation of the value of universal suffrage. That is a very serious project of redesign that we have in front of us both from the institutions and for our cultural practices. And we are fundamentally struggling with that project of redesign. We are struggling to such a degree that we now even have as a question whether our whole society affirms universal suffrage. So we are at a point again where I should draw a bright line but also recognize the importance of the work we’re doing. The globe has never seen a constitutional democracy at mass scale in context of social heterogeneity that we have now in countries like the U.S., India, and Brazil that rests on a first premise of full inclusion. So for me this is a moment like 1787. It is a time of constituting, and it is the most noble and significant human project we could possibly have in front of us. But we are struggling. You know, it matters that the democracies that had the hardest time with coronavirus were also the most heterogeneous. Again, it’s those three countries that are very contrastive to Australia, New Zealand, Germany—Germany is struggling now but did well in the beginning of the pandemic—and the like. So there’s more to be said about that. We do have a big job in front of us, but it is a noble and rewarding and should be an inspiring job.

TALEV: Thank you. Yascha, can you give a global perspective or a European perspective both looking at the U.S. right now and looking globally right now at the state of democracy? What is your perspective? Is the U.S. about where you thought it would be after the last several years? How does Western Europe see the U.S. right now? And what’s your, kind of, you know, thirty-thousand-feet prognosis for the state of democracy right now in the world?

MOUNK: All right, that’s a lot of questions. You know, you ask famously two Jews for an answer to a question, you get three answers. And certainly if you ask two or three political philosophers for a definition of democracy, you get seventeen answers. So I’m going to keep my temptation to engage that strand of a conversation in check and tell you about, you know, the state of democracy around the world and why we shouldn’t just be worried because of the obvious reasons for concern to the United States but why this really is, I think, an extraordinary moment around the world. So, Freedom House came out with its annual report on the global state of democracy about a month ago at this point, and it found that the world is now in its fifteenth consecutive year of a democratic recession, which means that for each of the last fifteen years, more countries have been moving away from democracy than towards it. And, in fact, 2020 was not just the fifteenth year of recession, it was the year in which the recession was the deepest. The difference between the number of countries that were moving away from democracy and towards democracy was bigger in 2020 than it was in any of the preceding fourteen years. And, of course, as it happens, this is not just a question of a number of democracies, it’s also in particular the most populous and powerful democracies that are under real democratic threat. Danielle has already alluded to Brazil as well as India. India as of this year is no longer classified as a “free country” according to Freedom House, which means that fewer than one in five people around the world now live in free countries.

Now, some political scientists try to have a more optimistic view of this. And the way they do that is to say, “Look, there have always been these waves of democratization in the nineteenth century, in the early twentieth century, and in the middle-late twentieth century.” And each time there was a counter wave in which some of those countries that were trying to democratize didn’t work out. And we know that it is hard for democracy to take root in countries that don’t have a long democratic tradition and that aren’t particularly affluent. And so when we see, for example, at the moment democracy struggling in Tanzania, that is a great shame. It should make us very sad. It should make us think what we can do to help fortify democracy there, but it’s perhaps not all that surprising from a point of view of political science. But the striking thing about the last year is that it’s not just been a quantitative decline of democracy, it’s also pulverized the way we used to think about the future of democracy. We used to assume that there was a certain range of countries, including the United States, but also countries in Western Europe, also some countries in East Asia, in Australia, and so on, in which we could take the stability of democracy for granted. In which most people would say that it’s really important to live in a democracy and that there’s very few movements in those countries that really pose a threat to the fundamental institutions of democracy. And that all has changed in the last year. So the rise of authoritarian populists in so many countries around the world with fragmentation of political systems, and as Danielle was pointing out, with a deep dissatisfaction of democratic systems among the citizens, even of Western European, North American, and so on democracies. That’s, I think, where we’re really in a fundamental threat to democracy.

Now, you also asked me about a brief preview of the future of democracy, and I’m going to make it very, very short. But I think the basic point is that Francis Fukuyama in The End of History argued that there isn’t, at this point, a live ideological alternative to democracy if it has real legitimacy around the world. For parts of the twentieth century there was communism. For a brief part of the twentieth century there was fascism. Both of those ideologies have thankfully failed, and it is not clear that there is a new one to substitute. For reasons we can go into in the debate, I think that’s still true. I think the competitors to the United States are very powerful in practice, but we don’t have a theoretical set of ideas or ideals that has broad appeal around the world. But Fukuyama also assumed that the citizens of democracies would really believe in the political systems, that they would be contented by it, that liberal democracies would succeed in reconciling the citizens to them. And at the moment, that does not appear to be the case. So what makes me optimistic about the future of democracy is that there still isn’t a really attractive alternative. What makes me worried and pessimistic is that, as Danielle was saying, you know, if you have more people trusting second-hand car salesmen than Congress, you have a deep problem. And that problem persists in the United States and in many other democracies around the world.

TALEV: Since this is the Council on Foreign Relations, I do want to talk about foreign policy a little bit. But I guess I want to ask this fundamental question, which is if there’s widening economic inequality, if there are more and more people who don’t feel like government is helping them for the kind of help that they need…and it’s different kinds of help: It’s not like everybody needs one kind of help, whether it’s health care, whether it’s family leave, whether it’s tax policy that works for you, whether it’s jobs or training for jobs or access to jobs, whether it’s broadband, whether it’s trusting information, right, there are all these cross currents going on—if you don’t feel that your government is helping you, and if there is a fragmentization of the media, as we know there is, and if there’s misinformation and if society and government haven’t caught up with technology yet, then it’s not that much of a mystery that people would be disaffected with democracy. So I guess I want to know what each of you think about how democracy can be protected. Like, we all know if you’ve ever sat around thinking about democracy that the alternative to democracy is probably not very good. But how do you convince people of that, show people that, particularly generations that have never lived through large-scale mass war that has drawn in the United States and, like, how do you think about this?

HAASS: Let me start and let me say, even though I agreed with the bulk of what both Danielle and Yascha said, I disagreed with one thing each of them said. With Yascha, I actually think there is an alternative to democracy and it’s this technocratic authoritarianism in places like China and elsewhere. And essentially the deal is, the political bargain being put forward in those countries is, “Look, democracy is messy. Look at these pictures we show of the United States and other places, of the Middle East during the Arab Spring. It can’t deliver the basics: order, economic security, and so forth. So here’s the bargain. You have less in the way of individual rights, but you have a better life.” So I actually think—I’m not advocating for it, don’t get me wrong—but I think there is a kind of authoritarianism particularly married up with technology that’s out there now as a twenty-first century alternative. I think we ought to take it seriously.

MOUNK: Can I respond to that?

HAASS: Yes, sir.

MOUNK: So I think when you look at China, for example—and I think this is a fascinating thing to double click on, so I think it’s great that we both go a little bit more in depth into this—when you look at China I think it works really well in practice, but it doesn’t really work in theory. What I mean by this is that I agree with you, Richard, that this is a very, very appealing alternative in places that can actually deliver on that. And some countries like China, because of thousands of years of history, of functioning bureaucracy, because of the Communist Party that’s floating around for sixty years that’s no longer really communist, because of very specific local conditions, is able to sustain that effective technocracy. And I think to citizens of China, it absolutely is a viable alternative. I think if you ask people in many countries in the Middle East or in Africa, “Would you like something like that?” They might say “yes.” But if you ask them, “Do you want to empower your bureaucrats to have more power rather than going towards democracy?” They’re going to say “no” because they’re not going to be anything like these capacious bureaucrats in China. And that’s why I think that the Chinese model is very difficult to export and there’s not many countries that are going to go down the technocratic route because the citizens fundamentally distrust their leaders to deliver anything like that. That’s why I don’t think that it’s quite a liable alternative, but I take your point.

ALLEN: All right then. So here’s a third point of view on that subject. So I agree with Richard that this is being articulated as an alternative paradigm. And it’s not just that the Chinese government is in various performative ways articulating this alternative paradigm, it is also the case that people are theorizing it, that works of political philosophy are being written, are being read, are getting uptakes. So there is a proactive effort at the moment to make the case for this approach. And the other concept that gets attached to it all is a case about meritocracy, right, that’s at the kind of core of the philosophical advocacy for the Chinese model. So there is also attractiveness to it including in this country. I mean the conversations around COVID that I was a part of it this past year had innumerable examples of people saying doesn’t this prove that China is better. So in that regard I would be a little cautious about presuming that there’s a sort of clarity about which direction people would go if presented with a choice. And I think there’s a reason for this, and I think that’s because we actually in this country have ourselves already adopted far too technocratic of an orientation to our own governance.

This is a place where I would actually raise a question, Margaret, about the formulation of your questions. That is if the way we formulate our goal is always, you know, can our government deliver X, then you are already in a row where your expectation is a technocratic expectation. I would argue that instead the question is, can our government both secure our capacity for self-government and deliver X? You need both of those things in the frame. The project of self-government is a project of empowerment. It is a very different approach to solution discovery. It’s about recognizing the expertise that exists in communities as people are identifying problems and finding solutions to the problems and then seeking to use the resources of our governmental structure to scale up those solutions. So, it is not just about experts with degrees or validated funding solutions, it really is about drawing on the collective knowledge of a whole body of people. That leads to a very different picture of how governance operates in order to deliver wellbeing, safety, and happiness for our people. So the material goods are still absolutely a part of the picture, but when you’re getting to them in a different way. And I think in that regard, we actually have to be asking basic questions about the value of empowerment in human lives if we want to keep the case for democracy alive.

TALEV: So, would you make the case that part of the problem is that people expect too much from their government and that people are themselves personally or in much smaller structures—sub-government—not engaged enough? Or are you making a different point?

ALLEN: I’m making a somewhat different point. It’s right for us to expect things from government, but we have to understand that we own the government, and it is our job to operate it and run it to deliver what we want. We get to shape the direction of that, and we also, in various ways, get to and should be participating throughout the process of that rather than relegating the work to technocrats.

TALEV: I suspect there are going to be many January 6 questions coming up, so I think I’m going to save most of those for the Q&A. But I do want to get a couple in before we switch to questions. And one is just that Joe Biden has been president now for a couple of months. We’re still within those first hundred days. I’d like to hear from each of you on how you feel that he personally in his administration has been approaching this issue of protecting or emboldening democracy, or exporting democracy, or encouraging democracy, and how you think that’s going so far?

HAASS: Well, he has been doing it quite a bit, not just him but his senior lieutenants. In that sense he’s closer to what we’ve seen as important traditions of post–World War II American foreign policy. It cuts across party lines. We saw it in the Reagan years, we saw it in the Carter years, and at times in the Obama years, and so forth. I think though he’s run into three problems. One is the state of American democracy is, shall we say, we’re not at our peak. It’s very hard to talk the talk when you can’t walk the walk. The rest of the world saw January 6. They see the repeated questioning of the election results. They’ve seen other things going on in our society, and we can talk about them. So we’ve come a long way, shall we say, from a shining city on a hill that we’ve reached a point where our example doesn’t speak for itself. And that’s what Mr. Biden inherited. It’s not his doing. But the question is, can we get to a point where the example is one that others will respect and want to emulate and so forth? That’s one thing.

Two, is that our influence to promote democracy is quite limited. Other countries have the ability to resist. Even weak countries like Myanmar and others can basically tell us to go take a hike. They can find other ways to get support. So if we sanction, they can find others to help bail them out, whether it’s China or somebody else. Thirdly, we’re limited ourselves because we have other priorities. We do not have a democracy-first, much less a democracy-only foreign policy in most cases with China or Russia or North Korea or Iran. We have twenty-six other priorities we’ve also got to think about. So it’s not simply that they can push back. It’s not simply that we’re not a great example right now. But we ourselves aren’t prepared, I would argue for good reason, to put democracy at the center of our foreign policy because with Russia we had to sign an extension on our nuclear arms control agreement. And with China we’ve got economic concerns. We’ve got North Korea to worry about. China is central to Iran. It’s central to Afghanistan. We’ve got concerns about the South China Sea, about climate change. I can go on. My point is simply that putting democracy at the center of foreign policy is much easier said than done. And even when you try to do it, it’s not clear to me that your influence is commensurate with your ambitions.

TALEV: Speaking of the pushback from authoritarian nations or not democracies, Yascha, I know that you were paying attention to that recent summit in Anchorage. What were your observations? What did you make of that and what it portends for American foreign policy and democracy?

MOUNK: Well, let me buy one minute of time by just deepening something that Richard just said. I promise I’ll come back to it, it’s related. You know, Richard talked about the tension between different kinds of goals in promoting democracy. I think even if, or insofar as, the only goal of the United States in foreign policy would be promoting democracy, there’s a very hard trade-off and dilemma that the country needs to navigate, which is that, obviously, the prime authoritarian competitors or despoilers in the international system are, respectively, China and Russia. And so any foreign policy that wants to protect democracy around the world and to some extent promote it—I mean, protecting democracy is a better frame at the moment than promoting it—needs to deal with those countries. But when you look at where democracy is backsliding the worst, which countries that are strategically and numerically important, are actually moving away from democracy at the most worrying clip: they are exactly the countries you need for a strategic alliance against Russia and China. So they are, for example, India. They are Poland. And so, how do you keep Poland and India on board, which you need to do in order to contain the influence of those authoritarian countries, without just going along with authoritarian leaders of those countries that are actually trying to destroy democracy? It’s a very deep dilemma. And it’s a dilemma even if your primary goal is protecting democracies around the world. Obviously, that dilemma is even deeper, and here I’ll come to Anchorage, because we thought about the last twenty or thirty years in terms of a democratic decline, a democratic recession, and that’s most of how I’ve talked in this conversation so far, how all of us have talked in this conversation so far.

There’s something else as well, which is an authoritarian resurgence, that is more than just the flip side of that coin. The self-confidence, the assertiveness of authoritarian countries around the world is much bigger than it was ten or twenty years ago, when we sort of felt like we were playing defense: the world is moving in a democratic direction, we just want to make sure that we’re not swept along the tide of history. They’re no longer feeling that, and especially China is feeling envious. They’ve come out of the pandemic better than we have in many ways. They’re growing economically. They’re investing in science and universities and in the future in ways that often we are not, and they are trying now to impose their view on the world. And I think the summit in Anchorage was a preview of what a very assertive China is going to look like over the next years. The one thing that I think it also previews though, is that, you know, I grew up in Europe. There was some legitimate and a lot of unfair criticism of the United States over the last sixty or so years because when you are the hegemon of the international system, people love you, but they also hate you. There was a brand of anti-Americanism that was very influential around the world. I think, and the meeting in Anchorage deepened that impression in my mind, that the Chinese leadership underestimates the extent to which its growing power and influence in the world is going to lead to anti-Chinese sentiment. Some of which, justified in terms of critiques of the behavior of the Chinese government, that obviously are worthy of critique, but some of it also irrational or unfair. That’s going to be a real factor in international relations and in the public standing of China. I don’t think the country has quite realized the implications of that yet. And I think, you know, shows like what we saw in Anchorage are going to harm China for that reason.

TALEV: Just before we go to questions, Danielle, I’d like everyone to weigh in, but I’m hoping you can kind of kick us off, this very visible post-election movement. In most states there are bills—in most American states now—to restrict, to dial back some of those expanded voting rights that, you know, the COVID era gave birth to, which enabled record turnout. That whole discussion—and at last count, there were something like 250 bills, again, in almost every state, in like forty-three states—has heightened what already was a debate about whether the legislative filibuster has passed it’s time in the United States. Whether this is a de facto tool to perpetuate racism. Whether it serves any purpose. Whether there’s so much gridlock now that you have to get rid of the filibuster to get anything done. Or whether, in fact, the filibuster still has some ability to protect minority groups in a positive way and whether it should be preserved. So I guess what I want to ask you all before we go to questions is as a part of a strange American blend of what democracy is, the legislative filibuster has been part of that since the 1800s. Do you think it should be preserved? And do you think it will be preserved?

ALLEN: I do not think it should be preserved. But let me be very specific about why and my answer there. So I am in agreement with a scholar named Ethan Zuckerman, who diagnoses American politics as having settled into something of a conflict between what he calls “institutionalists” and “insurrectionists.” He’s used that vocabulary for years. It predates January 6, his use of it, and from his point of view, insurrectionists are on both sides of the political spectrum. And a good way of capturing what this conflict is, is to think about the 2016 election as one in which we thought it was going to be a contest between a right institutionalist, Jeb Bush, and a left institutionalist, Hillary Clinton. Instead it was a contest between a right insurrectionist, Donald Trump, and a left insurrectionist, Bernie Sanders, fundamentally.

What this means is that there is just a real swath of the American public on both sides of the political spectrum that see our political institutions as fundamentally broken. And yes, we won’t actually regain social cohesion or competence in democracy unless our institutions can be responsive in relationship to the things people need. This is where both empowerment and whether our government can actually function effectively for us come together. Those are critical things. And so I do think we need fundamental redesigns in our institutions. I do think that getting rid of the filibuster is one of them. Although it’s a product of the 1800s, it didn’t really accelerate in its use until the twentieth century. So we should think of it actually as a kind of modern accretion, and it is one that has broken the legislative process. That breakage of the legislative process has tipped a heck of a lot of power to the executive, and then every four or eight years things just swing back and forth in a way that begins to feel quite arbitrary. There’s no deep grounding in the kind of synthesized orientation of the American people. It’s a recipe for instability, a recipe for breakage over time, and I do believe in order to have a functional legislative body, we need to get rid of the filibuster. So my argument doesn’t actually come from any of the specific political issues on the table. It is really about the health of the legislature.

TALEV: Yascha and Richard?

MOUNK: Yes, a couple of things. The first is that I don’t think that filibuster, as it is used at the moment, is a fundamental part of the United States Constitution. You know, there’s a lot of talk that the Senate is in itself unfair or unjust because it has two senators per state. There’s obviously a difference in the number of people per state and a difference in the demographic profile of states. I think calling in doubt the Senate is calling in doubt the fundamental federal structure of the United States, which is part of its DNA. I strongly oppose any attempts to question that. Now, I think statehood for Puerto Rico, if they wanted, statehood for DC—those are perfectly appropriate measures. But calling in doubt if you’re going to have two senators from South Dakota, I think, is going completely in the wrong direction. I’m worried when I hear people say that.

When we talk about the filibuster, I think that, you know, preserving the talking filibuster is a real option. I think having, what is the case now, where you need the super majority in order to pass anything in a political system that already has more veto points than practically any other democracy in the world, where you already have to have a majority in the House, and the Senate, and the presidency, and essentially, a majority in the Supreme Court, creates all kinds of destructive dynamics that Danielle talked about. So I wouldn’t say I’m in favor of abolishing it, but I’m open to reducing it towards a talking filibuster. But one thing I will add is that there’s an assumption among many of my friends and colleagues that this will obviously help Democrats. I think that that is quite a foolish assumption both because the Senate actually has an inbuilt lean towards Republicans in the current political configuration and because politicians are really, really bad at predicting the impact of institutional reform. In 2005, Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, put into place two reforms of the electoral system in order to benefit himself at elections that were going to take place seven months later. Each of these was crucial in ensuring that the opposition won. So this was a smart politician getting the partisan impact of institutional reform wrong six months away from an election. I doubt that everybody who assumes that getting rid of a filibuster is actually going to help Democrats or Republicans over a twenty- or thirty-year period can see that far into the future.

TALEV: Thanks. And Richard?

HAASS: Let me—very quickly. I understand the frustration and why people want to get rid of the filibuster, but I think Yascha is essentially right that with different political configurations, particularly in the Senate, I can imagine where Democrats today, whose positions are informed by what they see as the abuse, if you will, of the filibuster, would suddenly feel quite endangered or vulnerable in a different political setting. Look, let me make a larger point. The filibuster, reconciliation, or getting rid of the filibuster, pushing reconciliation: what worries me is our system is so broken that the normal processes aren’t working. And what we’re now doing is introducing reforms or workarounds to try to counter the fact that the system is broken down, that the amount of legislation that is produced every session is going way, way down. The system is broken. It’s not working. So I totally am sympathetic in the abstract to these calls for structural changes.

The problem is we’re then setting ourselves up for what I would call lurching, that under one combination of Senate, House, and the White House, we go in one direction. And it’s not just things like reconciliation. Its executive orders and the accretion of power by the executive branch, particularly in foreign policy in what Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., once called the “imperial presidency.” It’s the grants of authority in various legislation about tariffs, sanctions, and executive discretion. What worries me is we’re basically becoming something of a parliamentary system. And I actually think it’s dangerous when massive pieces of really centrally important pieces of social legislation are passed only by one party. I think it’s bad for the domestic polity. I worry also about the foreign policy consequences of a country, which is increasingly running itself more like a parliamentary system. I think the potential for rather dramatic changes increases, and the problem is the dramatic changes, I would argue, are largely inconsistent with the American leadership in the world because allies and others therefore won’t be able to count on us. We suddenly become much less predictable. So again, I understand what’s bringing us to this point and why we’re looking at things like abolishing the filibuster or pushing reconciliation, or the other. It’s almost like we’re saying we can’t fix the core problems. So as a result, we’re going to come up with these other devices. I get it, but it’s dangerous in the long run.

TALEV: Fundamentally, you’re saying you could do the workarounds to fix the problems and still have the problems?

HAASS: Or you could have a different political figuration, and you could use the workarounds and so forth for very different political outcomes. A lot depends upon, again, the context, and whether you’re in the majority, the minority, whether you hold both chambers, whether you also hold the White House, and so forth. So again, I see this as a reaction to the frustration that the system is broken down. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves. This is not a solution. This is a response that brings with it its own risks and concerns.

TALEV: Thank you. And on that uplifting note we are at this time going to move to the question-and-answer session. We’ve got about twenty-five minutes left, and a ton of questions lined up. And as I mentioned at the top of this conversation, at last count, well past two thousand people registered to join us here. So as we move to your questions, please keep that in mind. Try to limit yourself to one question. Make it concise and brilliant. We’ll do as many of these as possible. And while you’re waiting for your turn in the queue, please check in your chat screen if you haven’t already while you’re waiting. Please familiarize yourselves not just with the resumes, but with some of the thoughts, writings, and work of our panelists, Dr. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations; Dr. Danielle Allen, the James Bryant Conant University Professor and director for the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard; and Yascha Mounk, who’s a senior fellow at CFR. Okay, here we go. Krista, our operator, will now give you instructions for how to join the question queue. And Krista, take it away.

STAFF: [Gives queuing instructions] Our first question is a written submission from Mireille Ghassan with Minnesota State University, Mankato. “There is a growing mutual feeling among American citizens that U.S. political and social institutions are no longer working as they were intended to. There’s a decline in trust, growing political polarization, and continued animosity between the two most powerful political parties in government. How can the United States begin to move away from this political tribalism and begin to rebuild democracy?”

ALLEN: May I jump in on that?

HAASS: Please. [Laughs]

ALLEN: I had the great pleasure, privilege, and honor of over several years cochairing a commission for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that released a report last June called Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century. I would really encourage you to go find that report because it answers that question. And the basic answer is that a healthy democracy requires a virtuous circle linking institutions that are responsive, that empower people, that provide equal representation to civil society organizations, that help people bridge differences and also cultivate a healthy information ecosystem. And then third to a civic culture that nourishes mutual commitments to constitutional democracy and also to one another. So it’s got to get that virtuous circle going. We have a vicious circle. Our institutions seem nonresponsive. We don’t want to participate. We withdraw and that gives us less opportunity to work in civil society contexts that connect us to each other. Our culture degrades into the tribalism that the questioner asked about.

So there’s thirty-one recommendations in this. It ranges from things like increasing the size of the House, putting term limits on Supreme Court justices, introducing ranked-choice voting, independent redistricting, commissions to address institutional reform. There are suggestions around regulation of social media to support a healthy information ecosystem and civic media. And then there are some recommendations in the cultural space. For example, we have to dig into the hard question of whether we can actually find a way of engaging in our story about our shared history where we can be simultaneously clear-eyed about the good and the bad. Can we actually find ways of telling our history together that we can live with, our multiple and plural histories? So there’s a lot in the report. The short answer, though, I guess, is that there is a path forward. There is hope. There is stuff we can do. There are a lot of people working on all of these things. If we could all pull together, we could actually, in fact, achieve a quite substantial transformation in a positive direction.

TALEV: Thanks. Krista, could we move to the next question?

STAFF: Our next question will come from Patsy Sullivan from Kentucky. Please accept the “unmute now” button.

Q: Hello, my question was about when you were talking about what more can the government do to help people to make us better and things? I guess my question is kind of a question statement: don’t you think that we as people would be better if the government helped us less? I mean, it’s kind of like a child when they’re raised up and they get too much, they’re spoiled. I think, maybe, if the American people got less and learned how to make it on their own and become more independent from the government, they would be more successful. What’s your thoughts on that? I mean, that’s the way I see it.

MOUNK: Let me take a stab at that question. I mean, you’re invoking the famous line from Ronald Reagan saying, you know, “The scariest words in English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’” I understand that sentiment. I understand why people might feel that way, particularly when government is often not very effective. I mean, I think when we look at the pandemic—we haven’t talked about it much in this conversation—it’s really striking. About a year ago today, the conventional wisdom was that the pandemic would prove the irrationality of the global economic system, that global production chains would break down, and that we would see perhaps an end of, as the New York Times put it, the world economy as we know it, and governments are going to ride to the rescue and, you know, save us from this pandemic. Well, what we’ve actually seen is nearly the opposite. We’ve seen governments fail in many of the most multicultural democracies around the world, as Danielle put it, but also in some, you know, comparatively homogeneous democracies in Western Europe. Obviously, there are others as well. But countries like Germany and France, that we might have assumed would do really well, have really done very, very badly in the government response. And our actual economic system, which is strongly capitalist but also has a welfare state element, has done very well. Not only did private companies produce vaccines with some public research dollars that are now finally getting us out of the pandemic, but the global supply chain also held up very, very well. We’ve seen an amazing burst of creativity in private business that got us through this year in a fantastic way. And because of a welfare state people didn’t suffer as much as we might have economically. Actually, the poverty rate, amazingly, was down in 2020 compared to previous years in the United States. So actually the economic system has proven relatively resilient. The political system has not proven all that well.

Nevertheless, I want to push back a little bit about what you called your question statement because I think the right question is not more or less government, it’s not more or less private enterprise, it’s getting a government and enterprise that work very well together. It is getting a government that delivers much more for people than we do at the moment. A government that is capable, for example, of quashing a pandemic as all kinds of countries from South Korea to Australia have done over the last year. A government that helps to ensure that people can take risks so that they can start a business in their twenties, and if it fails they know we’re still going to have health insurance. But also a country that doesn’t have a lot of regulation, that doesn’t stop economic enterprise, that doesn’t stop all of the kinds of things that we need in order to have economic growth. So I would reframe your question and say how can we have better government and how can we create more space for people to be economically successful and productive. That’s, I think, the big question of the next twenty years, not more or less government or more or less free enterprise.

TALEV: Unless someone else would like to jump in we can move to the next question.

HAASS: Thirty seconds to say, I think the critical issue there is the quality of the government more than the quantity of the government. We’ve seen that around the world. We’ve seen democracies that have been phenomenally successful dealing with COVID and also phenomenally awful. And we’ve seen authoritarian systems do well and do awfully. That suggests to me the answers are not systemic, but it’s about the quality of the leadership.

TALEV: Thank you. Operator, next question.

STAFF: Our next question comes from Chris Culver with the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. “When I teach undergrad students about the current threats to democracy, there seems to be a sense of defeatism that rebuilding U.S. democracy or strengthening democracy abroad is beyond anyone’s control, or at least beyond theirs. How can we give young students a sense of agency that they have a role to play in reversing these concerning trends?”

ALLEN: So this is what I’m trying to talk about. This is exactly what I’m trying to talk about. This is the point about empowerment. And honestly, I think this is a part of the point that was being raised in the previous question, too. I don’t actually think the previous question was about big government or good government. The question is whether or not our basic idea is that government serves and does stuff for us or is government our tool, which we use to do things together. That’s the question. Do we the people own these tools and use them to do things that we can’t do separately? We couldn’t fight the pandemic separately. That was not a humanly possible thing. That’s what should make the point about when and where we need government. Government has the job of, in the Constitution, of securing the general welfare. There are things that we cannot do independently of one another. So the question then is how do we reengage a citizenry in understanding that these are tools that we get to use to deliver, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, our “safety and happiness?” So honestly, for young people, I think a starting point is to shift the question. Not ask how can government deliver more, but ask rather how can we actually participate in our government to ensure that we are using these tools to secure our safety and happiness together? It’s a small shift of the question, but it restores agency to ordinary people. I truly believe that that is one of the greatest frustrations that so many Americans are currently experiencing. And unless we can actually open that space for ordinary agency to come back into our decision-making, and our thinking together, we will continue to have just this sort of massive, festering frustration that we see all around us.

TALEV: I would kind of consider—oh, sorry, go ahead.

HAASS: I agree, though, I would just say in the last year or a couple years, we’ve seen any number of examples where individuals by what they’ve done or haven’t done have made a real difference. And it’s for better and for worse. So I actually think there’s no shortage of examples of agency. We’ve seen mid-level officials in a couple of states have outsized impact. We’ve seen what judges have done. We’ve seen what politicians have done and, again, for better and for worse, I actually think we’ve had an enormous case study of how people matter, that there’s very little inevitable about history. It also reinforces my own instinct. I’ve worked in four presidential administrations, and in several cases pretty close with the president. There’s almost nothing that’s baked into the cake when it comes to history. People matter. And so no one should feel in a sense impotent. The question is not simply, “Why does my vote count if there’s 150 million votes counted?” That’s the wrong question. There are so many other ways that people can and do make a difference. And again, I think the last year brings that out in really sharp relief.

ALLEN: I, 100 percent, agree with that, and would say so then let’s ask the question of where and how have we as people mattering secured the safety and happiness we need? And where and how are we being blocked from achieving that? And then I do think our institutions are failing us and sometimes blocking the full delivery of what good governance should secure.

TALEV: I was just going to say that—

HAASS: We actually have a little bit of a debate here because it gets us to this question of reform. The report you talked about, Our Common Purpose, is a really good report. The problem is, and it’s the parallel I often draw—pardon my foreign policy background—is to the UN Security Council. No one on the planet, I would argue today, if given a pencil and paper, would design the UN Security Council we have, seventy-five years after it was designed. It doesn’t represent the distribution of power. It doesn’t have certain equities built into it and so forth. The problem is that every conceivable reform, no matter how much better it would leave the Security Council, advantages some and disadvantages others. And shockingly enough, those who believe they would be disadvantaged will resist those changes. So we’re still stuck with this UN Security Council despite the fact that it’s deeply flawed. And the question is, most of the reforms that are in that report, Our Common Purpose, I actually think we’d be better off if we were to have them. And the question is, how do we bring about reform in a political context in which most people look at those reforms not through, if you will, a collective prism, but through a more narrow prism and they worry about the consequences of those potential reforms for themselves? And I think—so I’m not sure if it’s our institutions that are broken or the approach for which individuals involved in the political arena, it’s the approach they are taking and how they view either existing institutions or potential alternatives.

ALLEN: Well, this is one of the great pieces of good fortune of our incredibly diverse, multifaceted system is that there are many points of leverage, levers of change, and avenues of transformation. So in that report, we by no means suggest that everything has to pass through the aperture of Congress. To the contrary, we actually dispersed the lanes of action and activity precisely so that you can begin to drive change in states, for example, you can even drive change in municipalities, etcetera. And then those dynamics start to interact and open up new possibilities for change, and eventually you have a chance of actually driving change through Congress.

TALEV: For everyone following along, if you’re interested in learning more about this report that Danielle first mentioned and that Richard has been referencing here, you will find that link in your chat window. Don’t read it now because we’ve still got ten minutes of conversation but click on it and then you can go back to it later. I was just going to say that, you know, from my perspective, voting is the floor, not the ceiling. But the pandemic, and some of the changes that made it easier for people to vote, did lead to more people voting in that election, last November’s election. You can really see what a difference voting does make. And just as a journalist, you know, I’ve been covering politics, governance for a few decades now, and I am always surprised by how little of an impact many people think they can have just by doing things like voting or engaging or pushing for something. Actually, people could get a lot more out of their government if they were more, not just more engaged in thought and then in watching and reading stuff and responding to it at home or with their friends, but in doing something about it. I don’t mean like leading a campaign. I just mean like voting based on how you feel, a proactive vote, a protest vote. You know, saying that you want something, saying that you want a certain change, it doesn’t take—like it’s not a 0 to 60 thing. It’s like a 0 to 10 thing, like doing 10 percent more. It actually would have an impact. There are processes, there are avenues for the public in your cities or in your states or nationally to actually make a difference with some engagement. I just think that’s true. Okay, I’m done with my soapbox. I’m done being the panelist. I will return to my moderator role. And operator, can we take another question?

STAFF: Our next question comes from Richard Land with the Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina. Please accept the “unmute now” button. Okay, we will take our next written question from Maryum Saifee, U.S. Department of State in New York. “How can we create interagency structures that stitch together domestic and global policy? For example, linking domestic extremist/white supremacy threats with transnational far-right groups or harmonizing our domestic record on human rights with global rhetoric?”

TALEV: Who wants to jump on this one?

HAASS: It’s a good question. We’re limited in certain ways. Certain agencies either have an international jurisdiction or writ. Others have a domestic. There’s really only two people in the executive branch who have essentially an unlimited writ, and they’re called the vice president and the president. It wasn’t accidental that Vice President Harris was given the authority to play a special role with the surge of immigration at the border because it is a textbook international and domestic policy dilemma or conundrum. The vice president is uniquely suited to do that. The secretary of state is limited in what he can do in this country and also intelligence agencies to deal with some of the things. But at the end of the day, there’s something called meetings. I never thought I’d be sitting here advocating the case for meetings. There’s something called email, telephones, coordination. And what you’ve got to do is, it’s one of the lessons of 9/11. In many cases we have a lot of knowledge and a lot of authority. We just have to make sure we integrate them and latch them up together. And one of the most important things in government is process. It’s to make sure that the people who need to be around the table, be it physical or virtual, are around the table and the information is shared in a timely manner. You never want to be surprised. So I don’t think you need to create super agencies. What you need are just simply really solid, good processes.

ALLEN: But in addition, Richard, wouldn’t you say, I mean, that’s all exactly right. I agree 100 percent. But then there’s this other challenge of when and where people see strategically the value of doing that latching together and how we cultivate a culture that wants holistic thinking about our problems.

HAASS: 100 percent. It’s actually grown a lot in the last couple of decades. I see a lot more of it now. I mean, the fact that this meeting today, we’re calling it “Renewing America,” this large project we began several years ago at the Council on Foreign Relations. It’s because there’s so many issues now that don’t fit neatly into either the foreign policy box or the domestic policy box. You know, as we used to say, and don’t take this the wrong way, Danielle, “Universities have departments. The world doesn’t.” And that’s increasingly how I feel. So you’ve got to approach the issue wherever it takes you. It might be 60-40. It might be 90-10 in one direction or the other. You just got to do it. You just got to do it smart. And again, have the liaison, the coordination, the linkages that you need.

MOUNK: And to that voter issue, I think, you know, it’s in fashion at the moment to say that there’s this new linkage between domestic policy and foreign relations and that it sort of flows in the direction from foreign relations to domestic policy, which is to say, look, if we want the United States to sustain its role in the world, if we want to get people behind the idea of, you know, upholding the liberal international order, we need to reshape the liberal international order in such a way that direct benefits flow from it for Americans. But they see how it is that America being a leader, in upholding the liberal international order, actually helps them get jobs and pay their rent and all of those things. I think there’s reasons for that fashion. I think some of those points are very well taken. There’s also a level in which we need to inverse that, which is to say that it’s only when we do some of the things that Danielle talked about in her contribution in the report, it’s only if we alight on a common story. And it’s only if we are able to be upfront about the failings of our country, but also proud about the achievements of that and the important things in our political system that we can then actually stand up internationally for our values and for values that I actually ultimately believe to be universal. So the linkage doesn’t just go from, “Hey, in order to sustain our spending on troops we need to show people that the level of international order works for us,” it’s also that we need to do our domestic homework in order to have a story of ourselves and the pride of our country that allows us to stand up for the basic values of liberal democracy around the world.

TALEV: Thank you, Yascha. We are almost out of time. I think if we are concise we have time for one last question. Krista, could you do the honors?

STAFF: Great, our last question comes from Philip Eubanks with the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. “Last year saw one of the worst years on record in the U.S. for press freedom, and globally press freedom took a hit too. Access to information and a free press are the bedrock of democracy. Shouldn’t we start with fortifying the fourth estate if we hope for democracy to thrive?”

TALEV: And I did not pick out that question, but thank you.

HAASS: [Laughs]

MOUNK: Absolutely, and by the way this goes very, very strongly to protecting the courageous journalists around the world who are challenging authoritarian governments who are often in danger of being jailed or assassinated for that. It goes, of course, towards ensuring that media in the United States and other democracies continues to have access to government documents and government programs so that they can scrutinize them in the right way. It also goes beyond that. I do fear that social media creates the instinct towards groupthink where you have this emergent consensus on a whole bunch of different issues and anybody who strays from that feels very, very exposed. I fear a spirit of groupthink among many people who should really be the first to call for freedom of speech, for freedom of robust debate, and that includes many journalists in the United States and many people in institutions beyond newspapers and magazines, including universities. So I think, again, this is something where part of the answer is public policy and foreign policy. Part of the answer is people in the State Department speaking up for journalists who are threatened around the world. But part of the answer is also by the democratic spirit of fighting for our values domestically and all of you can make a contribution to that

TALEV: Danielle and Richard, any closing thoughts?

HAASS: Danielle?

ALLEN: I would just say thank you, Margaret, for a masterful job. Thank you, Richard, for hosting this. I think that this is an incredibly important conversation and I celebrate the holistic aspiration that you’re bringing to it. So thank you for the leadership.

HAASS: No, thank you all, and I’m also encouraged by that last question we showed at the beginning, Margaret, which was the overwhelming support for civics. I think that’s a great first step. The second step will be a national conversation about the content of the civics. What do we mean by civics now and what is it that we want every person who gets a diploma to have under their belts when they leave the school or leave a campus? I think that’s a really necessary conversation. There are domestic dimensions we’ve been talking about here. There are international dimensions given globalization and living in a twenty-first-century world. What is it we now need to learn and to think about to be prepared for a life in our country as well as in this world; what does being an informed citizen mean? I think that’s a really rich and important subject, but I’m truly encouraged by that last answer.

TALEV: Thank you, Dr. Haass; thank you, Danielle Allen; thank you, Yascha Mounk—thank you all for leading this discussion and thanks everyone who has joined us for participating. We hope as you leave today that you will take this address with you,, and visit and for more nonpartisan information and analysis on the future of democracy but also on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. And we hope you’ll join us for future Home and Abroad series forums. Thanks so much.


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