The Erosion of Democratic Values and Practice

Many observers believe we need to grapple with challenges arising from the many well-established laws, regulations and policies which have been ignored or violated over the past four years.

Janet Napolitano, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy faculty member and former UC President and former Secretary for Homeland Security, is in conversation with Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, former Director of the CIA, former White House Chief of Staff, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and former U.S. Representative from California; L. Song Richardson, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law; and Eric Swalwell, U.S. Representative for California’s 15th congressional district.

These experts tackle the impact on American society and democracy and voice concerns that the nation may have to grapple with a challenging period before it can begin to implement reforms to strengthen the system.

They explore the possibility of a transfer of power and the need to shore up democratic institutions to make our democracy stronger and better.

They each have ideas on a practical, yet ambitious, roadmap for reform focused on combatting the erosion of democratic values and practices in Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and law enforcement.

Watch American Democracy: Needed Reforms.

Surveying the Body Politic: The 2020 Election

Newly-eligible young voters are in the news and on the minds of politicos this year. States of Change, a nonpartisan project studying shifts in the electorate, estimates that Millennials presently constitute 34.2 percent of eligible voters while Post-Millennials make up another 3.4 percent. These two groups combined will virtually equal the share of eligible voters composed of Baby Boomers and the Silent and Greatest Generations; by dint of sheer numbers they could easily determine the election’s outcome – should they register and vote, which is not a given based on historical data. Eligibility and participation are very different questions.

UC San Diego Alumni brings together two commentators to provide context and insight into what is shaping up to be one of the most contentious elections in American history. Moderator Jerri Malana ’86 welcomes political expert and author Thad Kousser, Chair of the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego. They are joined by José Luz González ’20, a Chancellor’s Associates Scholar and UC-DC alumnus who graduated with a degree in Public Health. In a lively conversation the two men offer varied but complementary perspectives on the upcoming election.

Kousser, a seasoned political researcher and pundit, outlines the demographic, economic, and ideological shifts that have occurred since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and discusses how politicians and various components of the electorate have responded to those changes. González offers observations about one increasingly important component in particular, the under-25 voter. He notes that young people coming of voting age this year have recently exhibited a greater interest in politics than the previous generation or two, but stresses that it’s impossible to predict by fata alone whether that interest will translate into an increased presence at the polls in November.

Both Kousser and González also stress the outsized influence of social media on the body politic, and the difficulty in identifying reliable news sources. Other topics discussed include the influence of numerous special interest groups and the voting process itself, including the Electoral College’s role. Throw in such wild cards as deliberate misinformation, extreme partisanship, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and possible foreign meddling, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when contemplating the 2020 Presidential Election. Fortunately, experts like Kousser and González help to guide us through the thicket.

Watch Tritons Tackling the 2020 Presidential Election.

Is the Possibility of a Unified Korea Lost?

Two decades ago, Harold Koh thought he would soon see North and South Korea reunited. Today, the Yale professor who served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations says he no longer expects it will happen in his lifetime, if ever. Koh explained why he believes a series of missteps by Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump have stopped progress toward a unified peninsula during a recent talk at UC Santa Barbara.

Koh has dealt with the challenges of North and South Korea since before he was born. His mother was trapped in North Korea when the country was divided after WWII. She and her family hiked for days to the border, and were able to make it back to Seoul. His father worked in politics, but was forced to seek asylum in the United States after the South Korean government was overthrown in 1961. Koh eventually followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a legal scholar and diplomat.

Koh was optimistic about a peaceful resolution between North and South Korea back in 2000. He had just left Pyongyang after what was the highest-level diplomatic visit up to that point. He says there were plans in motion to move the 2002 World Cup to North Korea with a unified Korean team. But, when George W. Bush took office and named North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” Koh says those plans, and any hope of uniting the countries, died.

As much as Koh disagrees with the Bush administration’s approach to North Korea, he is even more critical of how President Trump has handled the situation. Koh says the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un was a mistake, because the administration should have demanded concessions from the North Korean regime before agreeing to such a high-level meeting. He also says Trump should have made clear demands from Kim, and certainly should not have publicly said he, “fell in love” with the dictator. But, Koh does believe we’re approaching a “moment of change.”

Watch The Trump Administration and North Korea

Robert Reich: Bringing Civility Back to Political Discourse

Have Americans lost the ability to talk politics? Recent studies show the country is more divided than ever before, and it’s only getting worse. In a lively talk at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, professor Robert Reich outlines what he sees as the main causes of the problem, and how we might be able to address them.

Political fights are a staple of American history. From the Civil Rights Movement to Vietnam, we haven’t always agreed. But, we used to agree on how to disagree, Reich says. He believes we have lost our respect, tolerance, and openness to the ideas of others. And making matters worse, we no longer trust government institutions to handle our disagreements.

Reich lays out three key factors he believes led to the current climate: geographic tribalism, stagnant incomes, and the media. Our opinions are most influenced by those around us, he says. And over time, we have separated ourselves into ‘red states’ and ‘blue states,’ becoming entrenched in political identities with little tolerance for outside opinions. Incomes have stopped growing with the economy, leading many to feel the system is rigged. Reich says politicians have latched on to that feeling to gain support. At the same time, a proliferation of media outlets has left each fighting for attention. One way to catch a viewer’s eye he says, is to stoke anger.

But, Reich says all is not lost. He lays out how each of us can do our part to bring civility back to political discourse. It all starts he says, with one conversation.

Watch Robert Reich: Why the Common Good Disappeared and How We Get It Back