Democracy’s Troubles

Twelve Threats to the American Ideal and How We Can Overcome Them

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About the Book

Evidence is accumulating that democracy is under siege–in the United States and around the world. This volume identifies and explains a dozen separate challenges threatening American democracy today. Sorting these challenges into political and social-cultural problems, each is placed in an historical context to describe how they work together to undermine the democratic underpinnings of the nation. Opening with a sketch of the historical development of democracy, this book makes the case for improved civic education, rebuilding trust in institutions and leaders, promoting good character and the revitalization of the healthy community. A renewed commitment to governmental institutions is necessary for the people to fulfill democracy’s promise.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

The late John E. Miller taught American history at the University of Tulsa and South Dakota State University for three decades. He wrote nine books on Midwestern politics and culture and other topics. He lived in Brookings, South Dakota.

Bibliographic Details

John E. Miller

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 219
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8113-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3934-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction: Democracy and the Challenges Confronting It 5

1. Democracy, Education and Journalism in American History 13

2. Social/Cultural Challenges to Democracy 44
Challenge 1—Education in Need of Renewal 45
Challenge 2—Journalism in Free Fall 52
Challenge 3—The Shifting World of Ideas 63
Challenge 4—Fake News, Alternative Facts and the Assault on Truth 75
Challenge 5—Declining Faith in Institutions and Leaders 85
Challenge 6—The Need to Revitalize Character and Community 94

3. Political Challenges to Democracy 105
Challenge 7—Voters in a Funk 105
Challenge 8—Polarized Politics 115
Challenge 9—Congress Throws Out the Textbook 124
Challenge 10—The Rise of the New Imperial Presidency 136
Challenge 11—Disappearing Norms and General Dysfunction in Politics 146
Challenge 12—The Natural Fragility of Democracy 155

4. A Program for Renewal 163

Epilogue 167
Suggestions for Further Reading 173
Chapter Notes 185
Bibliography 196
Index 201

Book Reviews & Awards

“Miller identifies and explains a dozen separate challenges threatening American democracy today. …a timely, detailed and documented study…impressively informative…thought-provoking…recommended”—Midwest Book Review