Is This the End of American Democracy?


Richard Parker refracted Stephen Skowronek’s observations about transformative presidents and the presidential cycle through the prism of economics, in order to identify how serious the latest threats to American democracy might be. Parker argued that one presidential cycle that began with Ronald Reagan is now reaching its end and that some propose that Joe Biden might be a ‘transformative’ president, heralding the new cycle.

Past ‘transformative’ presidents have included Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy. Their terms in office all witnessed a paradigmatic shift in the narrative of US identity and its foreign and domestic policy goals. Rather than being a sign of resurgent Republican power, Donald Trump could come to represent a final desperate attempt to hold on to the neo-liberal narrative established under Reagan.

Richard Parker was until this year Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy Centre, the biographer of John Kenneth Galbraith and the founder of Mother Jones. Although officially retired now, his courses on Religion and Politics in the US and Presidents, Politics and Economic Growth from FDR to Joe Biden are so popular, the university has asked him to come out of that retirement to continue teaching.

Misha Glenny, Rector of the IWM, was in discussion with the speaker and moderated the ensuing Q&A.

A recording of the lecture is available below.