Crisis in constitutional democracy focus of WSU Foley Institute distinguished lecture series

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PULLMAN, Wash. –  Four of the nation’s leading experts on constitutional democracy will discuss current crises in the U.S. and abroad in a series of free, online events beginning Wednesday, Feb. 16.

The noon-hour events are hosted by the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public and Public Service at Washington State University, whose mission is to educate the public about American government and democratic institutions, encourage public service and to promote scholarly research on public policy and political institutions.

“In recent years hyper-partisanship and polarization has severely tested America’s constitutional structures and democratic norms. In the past year alone, we witnessed two impeachments of a sitting president and an insurrection that desecrated the nation’s Capitol,” said Cornell Clayton, C.O. Johnson distinguished professor of political science and director of the Foley Institute. “We are living in a time of almost unparalleled threat to democratic governance here and elsewhere in the world.”

Eric Foner

DeWitt Clinton professor emeritus of history
Columbia University

Foner will deliver the opening Foley Distinguished Lecture, “The crisis in historical context: What the era of Reconstruction tells us,” on Feb. 16.

Foner’s many books include The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, which won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes for 2011; A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877; Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War; and his latest book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.

Bruce Ackerman

Sterling professor of law and political science
Yale University

Ackerman will follow with his lecture, “Was Trump a Symptom of a Constitutional Dis-Ease?” on Thursday, Feb. 25.

He is the author of 19 books in constitutional law and history, political philosophy and public policy, including his award-winning three-volume series on American constitutional development, We the People, and his recent book Revolutionary Constitutions, which puts the constitutional crisis in historical perspective by comparing the post-war experience of democratic nations around the globe. He is a Commander of the French Order of Merit, a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society has awarded him the Henry Phillips Prize for lifetime achievement in Jurisprudence.

Stephen Skowronek

Pelatiah Perit professor of political and social science
Yale University

Skowronek will present the third lecture: “The wayward course of American presidential democracy” on Thursday, March 4.

Skowronek has served as the Wynant visiting professor at the Rothermere American Institute, Balliol College Oxford, and has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and also held the Chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His many books include The Policy State: An American Predicament (with Karen Orren); The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton, The Search for American Political Development (with Karen Orren); and Presidential Leadership in Political Time: Reprise and Reappraisal.

Kim Lane Scheppele

Laurance S. Rockefeller professor of sociology and international affairs
Princeton University

Scheppele will deliver the final lecture in the series, “The crisis of democracy in global context” on Tuesday, March 16.

Scheppele has published widely in law reviews and social science journals in several languages. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the International Academy of Comparative Law. In 2014, she received the Law and Society Association’s Kalven Prize for influential scholarship. From 2017 to 2019, she was the elected president of the Law and Society Association. Since 2010, she has been documenting the rise of autocratic legalism first in Hungary, Poland and elsewhere around the world.

All upcoming and recorded Foley Institute online events can be watched directly from the institute’s YouTube channel. To sign up to receive notifications via email of upcoming events, email

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