Defining Democracy: Tyranny of the Majority

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what they are going to have for lunch.”   —Benjamin Franklin Aristocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Tyranny. From best to worst, this is the order in which regimes degrade, as described by Socrates in Plato’s Republic. You’re probably thinking: I thought democracy was good! Why did Socrates, arguably the […]

Defining Democracy: Corruption

It’s your first day of work and you slept through all your alarms. You are usually a safe driver, but you decided this time that you would disregard the speed limits to avoid making a bad impression on your first day. Next thing you know, a police vehicle has signaled for you to pull over. […]

Defining Democracy: The Senate

The Senate

The Founding Fathers conceived of the Senate as a dignified, thoughtful body, unfazed by political pressures. However, today, that description seems laughably inaccurate. To most Americans, the Senate is characterized by naked partisanship and cavalier obstructionism. How did the world’s “greatest deliberative body” become so ineffective? From the beginning, the Founders saw the Senate as […]

Defining Democracy: Independent Judiciary

Independent Judicary

Imagine that you are a (relatively) young Supreme Court Justice at 56 years old. You began your career fresh out of law school as a lawyer in Silicon Valley, becoming a rising star in the legal world, specializing in the intersection of tech law and privacy rights. Fourteen years ago, the President tapped you for […]

Defining Democracy: Marketplace of Ideas

In his classic On Liberty, John Stuart Mill warned: “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race… If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose the clearer perception of truth, produced by its […]

Defining Democracy: Equal Protection

“This guarantee… is that all citizens shall be forever equal, subject to like penalties for like crimes … It is to secure to the citizens of each State all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.” John Bingham’s words, written upon the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution in […]

Defining Democracy: Bill of Rights

In America, we have to work to achieve our goals. This is the basic rule taught to us in our country – and in a good many places besides. Sometimes, just sometimes, however, because of the sacrifices of those who came before us, merely by being alive, we are entitled to certain rights. A right […]

Defining Democracy: Criminal Justice Reform

Over 2.3 million people in prison, nearly a quarter of the world’s prison population. More correctional facilities than any other country, at a federal cost of $80 billion a year. These are startling statistics for a country generally considered to be “The Land of the Free.” What is more, despite violent crime rates falling by […]

Defining Democracy: Religious Freedom

In an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God … I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or […]

Defining Democracy: Electoral College

It is November 6, 2024, and you’re anxiously awaiting the results of the most transformative election in your lifetime. Over the past six months, the country has been gripped by an intense presidential campaign as the candidates have crisscrossed America, from Ohio to California, Maine to Kentucky, New York to Arkansas. Americans have followed the […]

Linda Chavez is a senior fellow at the National Immigration Forum. Chavez authored Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation (Basic Books 1991), which the Denver Post described as a book that “should explode the stereotypes about Hispanics that have clouded the minds of patronizing liberals and xenophobic conservatives alike.” National Review described Chavez’s memoir, An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal (Basic Books 2002), as a “brilliant, provocative, and moving book.”  In 2000, Chavez was honored by the Library of Congress as a “Living Legend” for her contributions to America’s cultural and historical legacy.  In January 2001, Chavez was President George W. Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Labor until she withdrew her name from consideration.

Chavez has held a number of appointed positions, among them Chairman, National Commission on Migrant Education (1988-1992); White House Director of Public Liaison (1985); Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1983-1985); and she was a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States (1984-1986).  Chavez was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland in 1986.  In 1992, she was elected by the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission to serve a four-year term as U.S. Expert to the U.N. Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.  

Chavez was also editor of the prize-winning quarterly journal American Educator (1977-1983), published by the American Federation of Teachers, where she also served as assistant to AFT president Al Shanker (1982-1983) and assistant director of legislation (1975-1977). 

Chavez serves on the Board of Directors of ABM Industries, Inc. a Fortune 500 company, as well as on boards of several non-profit organizations.   

Chavez was born in Albuquerque, NM, on June 17, 1947, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of Colorado in 1970 and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from George Mason University in 2012.  She currently resides in Silver Spring, MD.  

James Lewis joined RDI from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies where he worked as a Research Assistant for Senior Fellow Anne Applebaum. There he helped create an interdisciplinary course entitled “Democracy,” taught for the first time in the Spring of 2021. His academic background is in American political history and international relations. James is a graduate of Yale University.

Luke Henkel is a rising junior at Georgetown University studying government with a minor in history. Prior to RDI, Luke worked as an intern for the city government of Indianapolis, Indiana, his hometown. In addition, Luke currently serves as an editor for Left Middle Right and on the board of the Georgetown Bipartisan Coalition. In his free time, he likes watching college basketball (among other sports), hiking, and reading or listening to political news and commentary.

Divya Mehrish is a rising freshman at Stanford University and a published writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction pieces. At RDI, Divya works as a Research & Writing Intern. She is also currently conducting research and working on data science analysis for a tech-focused health startup. Divya loves learning languages and hopes to pursue Russian and Arabic in college.

Trevor Woitsky is a sophomore at Fordham studying political science with an interest in U.S.–China relations and congressional politics. At RDI, he helps out with development, social media posts, and events. Before joining RDI, he worked as a Fundraising Intern for the Gov. Cuomo campaign that gave him his first taste of city and state politics. Outside of work, he can be found reading historical biographies and sci-fi novels.

Audrey Firrone is a senior undergrad and first year graduate student at the University of Memphis. Her undergraduate studies are in creative mass media, French and political science, and her graduate studies are in journalism. At RDI, Audrey works as a Social Media and Marketing Intern. She also works with student-led groups advocating for Uyghur human rights through social media content creation, research and writing blogs. Research is also one of her passions as she works with two international organizations collecting data about policy decisions regarding COVID-19 that is used widely by social scientists and governments. When she is not working, she can be found reading fantasy or historical fiction novels.

Will Howard-Waddingham is a Research & Writing Intern at RDI and a rising senior at Yale University studying political science. He also works as a research assistant at the Yale Law School and runs the Europe desk at the Yale Review of International Studies. He is interested in the law, human rights, and criminal justice reform and enjoys watching baseball and basketball in his free time.

Samaquias Lorta is an interdisciplinary artist from a Mexican migrant community in the United States currently based in Berlin, Germany. Outside of RDI Lorta is an interdisciplinary artist working on productions involved with ecological thought and mental health. Samaquias studied cello performance and music composition at Boise State University. As a recent graduate of Catalyst Institute in electronic music production, Samaquias is committed to democratic values and an ethos that is inclusive of diversity and inclusion.

Aaro Berhane

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