Prof. Larry Diamond proposes 11 steps to restore American democracy

Dec. 3, 2020, 8:06 p.m.

Stanford political science professor and Freeman Spogli Institute and Hoover Institution fellow Larry Diamond ’75 M.A. ’78 Ph.D. ’80 is proposing electoral reform and a shift in political power intended to repair the damage done by increasing ideological partisanship.

The 2020 presidential election season was characterized by intense political polarization. The closest President Donald Trump has come to concession is backing off his denial of a transition process to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. According to The Pew Research Center, ideological partisanship has deepened in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, resulting in even more polarization than in the already fraught 2016 cycle.

But Diamond says that American democracy isn’t alone in confronting this problem: Intense partisan polarization is “a phenomenon that afflicts many of our peer democracies and the advanced liberal democracies of the world and many other emerging democracies,” he said at a Wednesday evening event hosted by the Master of Liberal Arts Program. 

In an effort to move toward decreased polarization, Diamond developed a plan of 11 points to restore democracy in America. The plan includes implementing ranked-choice voting, ending voter suppression, abolishing the Electoral College and reforming campaign finance. All of these proposals have gained considerable traction in the last year leading up to the 2020 general election.

Diamond encouraged challenging what he described as intensely partisan agendas of political leaders by granting more power to party caucuses and coalitions more willing to compromise. He raised the possibility of implementing term limits on Supreme Court justices and having sitting presidents nominate a justice the first and third year of presidency.

Diamond also cited some instances of electoral reform that have already been achieved. In the past few years, some reforms have come through statewide referendums. For example, some states granted nonpartisan commissions the ability to redistrict in an effort to reduce partisan gerrymandering. On the voting rights front, Maine implemented ranked-choice voting in 2018, and Virginia passed a referendum to automatically register eligible voters earlier this year. Referenda, Diamond said, provide Americans with “an opportunity to put the power to reform our democracy in the hands of the electorate and … out of the hands of the parties.”

Some bipartisan organizations are also advocating for reform, according to Diamond.

“There’s so many organizations — lawyers fighting for civil justice, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Lincoln Project that are working on political reform,” Diamond said. “Many of them are Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, asking the simple question: How can we make our politics more collaborative to begin?”

Contact Kassandra Delgado at delgkassandra ‘at’

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