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This collection on American democracy challenges and complements blog posts and opinion pieces that are typical staples of the 24/7 news cycle in the lead up to US elections. You'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions, the role of the media in civil society, and more.

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"VOTE!" by Paul Sableman licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Advancing a People-First Economy

November 3, 2023

In the United States today, too many families cannot achieve the life they want, too many communities have not benefited fully from national economic growth, and too many Americans believe the economy does not work for them.Advancing a People-First Economy is the final report of the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The interdisciplinary and crosspartisan Commission comprises scholars, journalists, artists, and leaders from the faith, labor, business, nonprofit, and philanthropic communities. The Academy convened the Commission to address the problems facing the American political economy, problems the Commission believes are inextricable from the challenges facing American democracy and American institutions more generally.This report argues that too much attention is devoted to how the economy is doing and not enough to how Americans are doing. An economy should be judged not only on its efficiency and productivity but on its ability to improve people's well-being. In listening sessions across the country with people from different walks of life and from across the political spectrum, the Commission heard about the challenges people are facing and how current economic arrangements often do not prioritize their needs. A lack of economic security and opportunity fosters distrust of the political and economic system, a distrust that threatens the nation's social fabric, its institutions, and the ability of those institutions to provide security and opportunity for Americans.

The Case for Supreme Court Term Limits

October 25, 2023

In 2018, the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (the Academy), launched an effort to develop responses to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our political and civic life and to enable more Americans to participate as effective citizens in a diverse twenty-first-century democracy. This effort included a review of the Supreme Court and its role in our current political crisis. When the Commission issued its thirty-one recommendations for strengthening democracy in the report Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the recommendations included the proposal for eighteen-year Supreme Court term limits.To further the effort to advance this idea, the Academy convened a working group of top experts in the field of constitutional law and Supreme Court reform to develop a comprehensive proposal for enactment of eighteen-year term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices. In this moment when the rhetoric surrounding Court reform is becoming increasingly politicized, the members of this group feel that the need for a dedicated body to lay out a thoughtful, nonpartisan path forward on this important reform is clear. This paper is the result of the working group's yearlong deliberations and is intended to fill that void.The paper first describes why eighteen-year term limits are a vital reform, one that would positively impact on the polarization and partisanship created by life tenure by reducing the incentives for strategic retirements and political campaign–style efforts focused on the nominations process, and by improving the reputation of the judicial system itself. This reform is not only broadly supported by scholars, the legal community, and the public; it would also put the United States in the company of most other nations, as well as all but one of the states of the United States.The paper then examines various proposals offered to create limited terms for justices and lays out our vision for the best possible approach, one that is both constitutionally viable and achievable in a reasonable time frame. Our recommendation centers on an eighteen-year term imposed via statute. In the sections below, we explain why a statute would be constitutional, how it would work, including the transition period and need for a short period of Court expansion, the role of "senior justices," dealing with unexpected vacancies, and overcoming possible Senate obstruction.Our consensus position is that this proposal presents the strongest and most broadly supported reform for a Supreme Court that has been much buffeted by reputational challenges and the political polarization that has been so prevalent in the nation. Adoption of eighteen-year term limits will not solve all of our problems, but it would go a long way toward restoring the actual and perceived legitimacy and impartiality of our highest court.

The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives

December 9, 2021

This report makes the case for expanding the House of Representatives to bring the American people a little closer to their government, and their government closer to them. The Case for Enlarging the House of Representatives is an independent byproduct of Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, the final report of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. The Commission represents a cross-partisan cohort of leaders from academia, civil society, philanthropy, and the policy sphere who reached unanimous agreement on thirty-one recommendations to improve American democracy. The report takes as a premise that political institutions, civic culture, and civil society reinforce one another. A nation may have impeccably designed bodies of government, but it also needs an engaged citizenry to ensure these institutions function as intended. As a result, Our Common Purpose argues that reforming only one of these areas is insufficient. Progress must be made across all three. To build a better democracy, the United States needs better-functioning institutions as well as a healthier political culture and a more resilient civil society.


Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century

June 12, 2020

"Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century" is the work of the US national and bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, convened by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It presents 31 recommendations - across political institutions, political culture, and civil society - which are the product of two years of work and nearly 50 listening sessions with Americans around the country, which sought to understand how American citizens could obtain the values, knowledge, and skills to become better citizens. Collectively, the recommendations lay the foundation for an essential reinvention of the American democracy supported by the increasement of citizens' capacity to engage in their communities.