The Future of Democracy in the United States

Series Description: Analysts in the United States and abroad have become increasingly concerned about the stability of democracy in the U.S. Governing institutions, leaders, political parties, and the electorate have been showing worrying signs of democratic “backsliding” in the past several years. The January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol was ultimately the predictable outcome of America’s underlying problems with democratic norms and practices.

Series Information: Three week series, beginning on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, 10:00-11:40 a.m. This is a live-streamed, online program. Registrants will receive information by email to access the program. The actual Join URL will be sent out to registrants two business days prior to the session. If you have not received it by then, please contact the Selim Center ( immediately.

Series Educators

  • Renee Buhr is a Professor of Political Science with specializations in Comparative Politics and International Relations. She specializes in European and post-Soviet politics and has published works on national identity and national security issues. Prior to earning her doctorate, Dr. Buhr worked in the foreign policy community as a non-proliferation analyst and with the World Bank.
  • David Williard is an Associate Professor of History who specializes in the history of the United States. He studies the relationship between the law, violence, and race in  nineteenth century America, with his work appearing in The Journal of the Civil War Era and the Journal of Southern History. He is at work on a book titled Confederate Legacy: The Problem of Soldierhood in the Post-Civil War South, and has a chapter titled "An Ideology Beyond Defeat" in Paul Quigley, ed, The Civil War and the Transformation of American Citizenship. He teaches courses in modern United States history, the Civil War era, United States military history, slavery and emancipation, and violence in American culture.
  • Caleb Goltz is an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of St. Thomas where he teaches courses on the judiciary. He is especially interested in how standards of civil liability influence individual behavior and have social consequences. He is currently at work on a book project detailing the legal and political forces contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder in honey bees. Prior to coming to St. Thomas, he was a member of the faculty at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York for four years. Born and raised in the northwestern Minnesota town of Hendrum (population 309), Goltz did his undergraduate work at St. Olaf, and his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. His doctoral dissertation focused on the development of liability law in England during the seventeenth century.

Fee for the series: $45.00 per person

To register on-line with a credit card on our secure page, click on this link   

To register by check or cash, or to redeem a voucher, please complete this registration form and mail back to the address on the form. Please note that no discounts can be applied to paper registrations and please allow 10 business days for postal mail to reach the Center's office. Spring 2021 Paper Registration Form

Series Syllabus:

DateSession Description

April 27

(Dr. Buhr)

Is American democracy “backsliding?”

This session will delve into the elements that make democracy work and which “signs of trouble” were present on January 6.

May 4

(Dr. Williard)

Democracy and Its Discontents: An Overview of American Political History

This session will explore how political institutions within the United States have constructed the idea of the electorate and the citizenry since the consolidation of the American republic in the aftermath of the American Revolution. We will explore how these conceptions have evolved and expanded American democracy, as well as the cultural and institutional forces that have consistently thwarted democratic ambitions in the United States.

May 11

(Dr. Goltz)

Dividing and Uniting the American Electorate: From Madison to Monopoly Capitalism

The first half of this session will focus on what we can learn from James Madison’s concept of faction in the context of our present politics. In the second half, we will turn our attention to recent research in how the concentration of business opportunity both geographically and organizationally has changed the character of the American electorate and altered the incentive structure for elected officials.