Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People

Bakari Kitwana (Editor) David Orr (Editor)
& 1 more


A stellar group of America's leading political thinkers explore how to reboot our democracy

The presidential election of 2016 highlighted some long-standing flaws in American democracy and added a few new ones. Across the political spectrum, most Americans do not believe that democracy is delivering on its promises of fairness, justice, shared prosperity, or security in a changing world. The nation cannot even begin to address climate change and economic justice if it remains paralyzed by political gridlock.

Democracy Unchained is about making American democracy work to solve problems that have long impaired our system of governance. The book is the collective work of thirty of the most perceptive writers, practitioners, scientists, educators, and journalists writing today, who are committed to moving the political conversation from the present anger and angst to the positive and constructive change necessary to achieve the full promise of a durable democracy that works for everyone and protects our common future. Including essays by Yasha Mounk on populism, Chisun Lee on money and politics, Ras Baraka on building democracy from the ground up, and Bill McKibben on climate, Democracy Unchained is the articulation of faith in democracy and will be required reading for all who are working to make democracy a reality.

Table of Contents

David W. Orr

Part I. The Crisis of Democracy

Populism and Democracy
Yascha Mounk

Reconstructing Our Constitutional Democracy
K. Sabeel Rahman

Restoring Healthy Party Competition
Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

When Democracy Becomes Something Else: The Problem of Elections and What to Do About It
Andrew Gumbel

The Best Answer to Money in Politics After Citizens United: Public Campaign Financing in the Empire State and Beyond
Chisun Lee

Remaking the Presidency After Trump
Jeremi Suri

The Problem of Presidentialism
Stephen Skowronek

Part II. Foundations of Democracy

Renewing the American Democratic Faith
Steven C. Rockefeller

American Land, American Democracy
Eric Freyfogle

Race and Democracy: The Kennedys, Obama, Trump, and Us
Michael Eric Dyson

Liberty and Justice for All: Latina Activist Efforts to Strengthen Democracy in 2018
Maria Hinojosa

What Black Women Teach Us About Democracy
Andra Gillespie and Nadia E. Brown

Engines of Democracy: Racial Justice and Cultural Power
Rashad Robinson

Civic and Environmental Education: Protecting the Planet and Our Democracy
Judy Braus

The Supreme Court's Legitimacy Crisis and Constitutional Democracy's Future
Dawn Johnsen

Part III. Policy Challenges

Can Democracy Survive the Internet?
David Hickton

The New New Deal: How to Reregulate Capitalism
Robert Kuttner

First Understand Why They're Winning: How to Save Democracy from the Anti-Immigrant
Far Right
Sasha Polakow-Suransky

No Time Left: How the System Is Failing to Address Our Ultimate Crisis
Bill McKibben

Powering Democracy Through Clean Energy
Denise G. Fairchild

The Long Crisis: American Foreign Policy Before and After Trump
Jessica Tuchman Mathews

Part IV. Who Acts, and How?

The Case for Strong Government
William S. Becker

The States
Nick Rathod

Democracy in a Struggling Swing State
Amy Hanauer

Can Independent Voters Save American Democracy? Why 42 Percent of American Voters Are Independent and How They Can Transform Our Political System
Jaqueline Salit and Thom Reilly

Philanthropy and Democracy
Stephen B. Heintz

Keeping the Republic
Dan Moulthrop

The Future of Democracy
Mayor Ras Baraka

Building a University Where All People Matter
Michael M. Crow, William B. Dabars, and Derrick M. Anderson

Biophilia and Direct Democracy
Timothy Beatley

Purpose-Driven Capitalism
Mindy Lubber

Restoring Democracy: Nature's Trust, Human Survival, and Constitutional Fiduciary Governance 397
Mary Christina Wood

Ganesh Sitaraman

Product Details

$19.99  $18.39
New Press
Publish Date
March 03, 2020
5.9 X 1.6 X 9.0 inches | 1.25 pounds

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About the Author

David Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Emeritus, at Oberlin College.

Andrew Gumbel is a British-born journalist, based in Los Angeles, who has won awards for his work as an investigative reporter, a political columnist, and a feature writer. For more than twenty years he worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters and the British newspapers The Guardian and The Independent, covering stories in Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. He covered the first democratic elections in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall and has frequently reported on contested or suspect elections since in Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Haiti, and, since 2000, in the United States. He is the author of Down for the Count and Won't Lose This Dream, both from The New Press, and the author of Oklahoma City.

Bakari Kitwana is a journalist and activist in the area of hip-hop and black youth political engagement.

William Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.


Praise for Democracy Unchained
"Cogent. . . . Wide-ranging. . . . Penetrating analyses of the nation's ills."
--Kirkus Reviews

"This remarkable book is like speed dialing the smartest minds in America, and getting them to tackle the country's toughest problems. It's full of fresh and urgently needed ideas."
--Jane Mayer, chief Washington correspondent, The New Yorker

"This courageous book is a timely treatment of our crisis of democracy! The variety of powerful voices and cogency of analytical viewpoints are badly needed in these grim neo-fascist times!"
--Cornel West, Harvard University

"Where do we go from here? In Democracy Unchained some of the country's best minds tackle this most urgent of questions. The result is a must-read for anyone interested in--or worried about--the future of our Republic."
--Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer, The New Yorker, Pulitzer Prize winner for The Sixth Extinction

"A peerless, one-stop compendium that explains with welcome clarity why American democracy is in such peril--and what we must do to repair and reinvent it before it is too late. Read this book, share it, and act on its authors' wise counsel. The stakes could not be higher."
--Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America

"This collection of essays by preeminent Americans from a wide array of backgrounds and professions may someday be recognized as the twenty-first-century equivalent of the Federalist Papers. Certainly the times are no less perilous than when Hamilton, Madison, and Jay set their pens to paper."
--Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Our Wild Calling

"Democracy Unchained is an extraordinary compilation of essays on the parlous state of democracy in our country. Irrespective of whether you may disagree with some essays, every voting citizen should make the effort to read them all as they will stimulate serious thinking and make us better stewards of our democracy."
--Theodore Roosevelt IV, managing director and chairman, Barclays Clean Tech Initiative

"The looming climate catastrophe requires that we disenthrall ourselves from the constructs and assumptions of the past. Democracy Unchained presents an urgent opportunity to think anew, and to engage Americans from every part of America."
--Tim Wirth, former U.S. senator from Colorado; president emeritus, United Nations Foundation