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About the Event

The United States and Europe seem to be experiencing a tide of populist leaders, perhaps spurred on in part by a mixture of economic and financial crises, fears of identity loss, and concerns about immigration policies. This tide of populism is also giving rise to other threats to democratic values and governments—threats of illiberalism, authoritarianism, and even creeping fascism by some assessments. 

But are these concerns valid? And if so, to what extent and how should citizens respond?

The first event of this three-part series—titled “Democracy on the Table”—took place on the eve of the 2020 U.S Presidential Election. The panel of experts discussed a favored headline of our times: retreating or failing democracy in the United States and Western Europe, the world’s “advanced democracies.”

About the Panelists

  • Joshua Geltzer, Executive Director and Visiting Professor of Law, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Georgetown University
  • Holli Semetko, PhD, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Media and International Affairs and Professor of Political Science, Emory University
  • David Thornburgh, President & CEO, Committee of 70

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About the Series:

Nearly every day, the news is focused in some way or another on threats to democracy around the world. 

In Europe, there are concerns over wavering Brexit plans, and what it means for democracy in the UK and its relationship not just the EU, but other allies around the world. Autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China are both testing the limits of democracy and feeling pressure from their neighbors in places like Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Hong Kong. Narendra Modi’s crackdown on dissent and other freedoms is rocking the foundations of democracy in India. Populist leaders like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Joko Widodo in Indonesia, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines are eroding individual rights and deepening corruption in their respective countries.

Even here in the United States, some are claiming that the end of American democracy as we know it has arrived. And in looking back on the wisdom of one of our country’s Founding Fathers, John Adams perhaps foreshadowed our current moment when he said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Join the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia for a series about the threats, opportunities, limits, and future of democracy at home and around the world.