Is the United States at risk of democratic backsliding? And would the Constitution prevent such decay? To many, the 2016 election campaign and the conduct of the newly installed President Donald Trump may be the immediate catalyst for these questions. But structural changes to the socio-economic environment and geopolitical shifts are what make the question a truly pressing one. Our forthcoming book “How Constitutional Democracy is Lost (and Saved)” draws upon extensive comparative law and politics experience to map the institutional pathways along which democratic decline occurs. In the chapter we’ll be presenting, we take up the hard question of what can be done to halt democratic declines. In particular, we ask, what sort of institutional changes—both to foundational constitutional architecture and more ephemeral institutional elements—might help mitigate the risk of democratic backsliding, and what chance is that that such changes would be made today?
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Tom Ginsburg is the Leo Spitz Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago, where he also holds an appointment in the Political Science Department. He holds B.A., J.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. He currently co-directs the Comparative Constitutions Project, an NSF-funded data set cataloging the world’s constitutions since 1789. His books include Judicial Reputation: A Comparative Theory (2015) (with Nuno Garoupa); The Endurance of National Constitutions (2009) (with Zachary Elkins and James Melton), which won the best book award from Comparative Democratization Section of American Political Science Association; and Judicial Review in New Democracies (2003). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Before entering law teaching, he served as a legal advisor at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, The Hague, Netherlands, and he has consulted with numerous international development agencies and governments on legal and constitutional reform. He currently serves a senior advisor on Constitution Building to International IDEA.
Aziz Huq is the Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. His scholarship focuses on how institutional design influences individual rights and liberties. It appears in leading law reviews, including flagship journals at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Duke, Virginia, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Texas. He has also published in leading peer-review journals in empirical legal studies, criminology, and social psychology. His recent pieces have won the AALS Junior Scholars Paper Competition Award in Criminal Law and have been selected for the Harvard/Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum. In 2015, Prof. Huq received the Graduating Students Award for Teaching Excellence. He clerked for Judge Robert D. Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and then for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States. Before teaching, he led the Brennan Center’s project on Liberty and National Security and was a senior consultant analyst for the International Crisis Group.