November 15, 2023, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Lester Pollock Room, Furman Hall, New York University School of Law
On the eve of the American Revolution, John Adams wrote in his Thoughts on Government that the representative bodies at the heart of a functioning democracy should be “an exact Portrait, in Miniature, of the People at large.”
That ideal has never been fully realized in practice, but as the United States approaches the 250th anniversary of its national independence, there are troubling signs that the nation is moving even further away from the aspiration.
The stress points are many.
In recent decades, communities of color have increasingly powered the country’s population growth, but in many places they have been deprived of an appreciable share of governing power — sometimes deliberately, sometimes because of weaknesses in the electoral systems we use.
At the same time, anti-democratic extremists, alarmingly, are increasingly finding electoral success and access to power even as their views are rejected by a majority of voters. If the goal of representation is to have representative bodies that broadly mirror the people of the nation, our existing systems of representation don’t seem to be delivering it — and may not be capable of delivering it.
This gathering will bring together thought leaders with diverse areas of focus to start an important conversation about weaknesses in the current representation systems and to explore whether there are alternatives that would work better for the modern United States’ politically complex, diverse, multiracial democracy.