Political Scientist Rick Valelly '75 Says Democracy Is Facing Unique Threat

Rick Valelly '75

SSRN BlogWeekly Top 5 Papers – September 4th 2017

"Trumpism and American Democracy: History, Comparison, and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the United States," co-authored by Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science Rick Valelly '75, was named a top paper of the week earlier this month by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), which is devoted to the rapid worldwide dissemination of research.

In the essay, Valelly and the authors argue that "understanding what is uniquely threatening to democracy at the present moment requires looking beyond the contemporary particulars of Donald Trump and his presidency. Instead, it demands a historical and comparative perspective on American politics." Drawing on a range of insights from the fields of comparative politics and American political development, the authors state that President Trump’s election in 2016 represents the intersection of three streams in American politics: polarized two-party presidentialism; a polity fundamentally divided over membership and status in the political community, in ways structured by race and economic inequality; and the erosion of democratic norms at the elite and mass levels. 

On the SSRN BlogValelly explains: "This paper grew out of a conference at Cornell University that brought together comparativists and Americanists.... We found that the paper clearly touched a nerve — and that it quickly diffused through the conference gathering."

Rick Valelly '75 is Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, where he has taught since 1993. He is the author of the award-winning The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement (2004), American Politics: A Very Short Introduction (2013), and Radicalism in the States: The American Political Economy and the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party (1989). His current research focuses on the political development of LGBT rights in the U.S. with a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.