Speaker series to address "Democracy in Crisis"

February 21, 2022

U.S. democratic institutions are under attack. While law enforcement agencies and a Congressional committee still work to investigate the January 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol – political violence aimed at blocking or overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election – a wave of subsequent efforts have continued to seek to undermine the norms and structures that have given Americans basic confidence in elections and in the peaceful transfer of power. Meanwhile, from state houses to the Supreme Court, bitter debates rage over voting rights, access, and security. 

The University of Michigan will host four award-winning journalists who will share their insights into the forces threatening and protecting American democratic structures and systems. The series is a partnership between the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Wallace House, and U-M Democracy & Debate 2021-22, co-hosted by the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

The Democracy in Crisis series will also explore the current state of journalism and the role of the press in upholding democratic institutions–at a time of demagogic attacks on the media and dramatic shifts in media ownership and independence.

“Here in the United States, and in many countries around the globe, democracy is being threatened, and journalists are standing up to raise the alarm. This series will help our community and the broader public understand what’s at stake, and what they can do about it,” says Ford School dean Michael S. Barr

LSA dean Anne Curzan says of the series, "Strong, free and open, ethical journalism is essential to a well-functioning democracy. This series offers all of us an opportunity to hear from award-winning journalists not only about the state of democracy in the U.S. and around the world, but also about the state of political journalism from an insider's perspective."

"Diminishing the role and work of journalists is a key tactic in undermining democracies. Bringing visibility to the work of journalists is a necessary antidote to those efforts. We look forward to giving our community a chance to engage with these experienced reporters in a way that cuts through the noise to prompt thoughtful civic engagement," agrees Wallace House director Lynette Clemetson.

The series begins with three events in March: Molly Ball of Time magazine, March 9, interviewed by veteran political reporter Craig Gilbert; Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Barton Gellman of The Atlantic, March 23, moderated by Barbara McQuade, Michigan Law Professor from Practice; and Sarah Kendzior, author of Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, March 31, in conversation with Ford School lecturer Jonathan Hanson. 

Anne Applebaum will close the series with a keynote on April 4 at the Michigan League. Author of ‘Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism’, she was named one of “The Top 50 Thinkers of the Covid-19 Age” by Prospect magazine. Dean Barr will moderate the session. 

Check the Ford School website Events pages for details of the talks, all of which will be streamed and some of which will also include in-person attendance.