Democracy in America Revisited–Parallels Between the Election of 1912 and the Election of 2008 [Fifth of a Series]


At a time when the phenomenon of industrialization, driven by new technologies and new business and manufacturing processes, was transforming the economic landscape of America, the central debate of the 1912 presidential election revolved around two different answers to the central question of how American democracy should be preserved:

(A) Do you decentralize the economy to preserve democracy, thus preserving its local character? This position was held by Louis Brandeis and Woodrow Wilson; or

(B) Do you redesign American democracy to be national so it can have enough authority and legitimacy to regulate the entire country’s economy? This position was held by Teddy Roosevelt.

Whether you agreed with (A) or (B), both required the integration of local and national politics. Today, we face a similar integration challenge, but at a global level.

Can Democracy cope with this vastly more complex landscape? The fact is that the global scale of the economy has again outrun our political institutions, and the stress of globalization on countries that don’t have the degree of institutionalization evident in the U.S. is far more severe (a Huntingtonian concept that goes back to his early opus, Political Order in Changing Societies).

More and more reformist voices in the early 21st century have been calling for the need to create a sense of national citizenship, and now even global citizenship…

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