Dayton Days Ideas and Insights

The Psychology of Polarization

In December 2022, we invited Mylien Duong, senior director of research of the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI), to join us. CDI uses the psychological processes that influence decision-making to create tools that can help students and professionals have conversations across differences. We asked, What roles do unconscious mental processes play in how we understand and respond to shared problems, and how can these tools help reduce the levels of political mistrust, division, and animosity?

An Ongoing Struggle: Democratic Ideals and Illiberal Resistance

In November 2022, we invited Kevin C. O’Leary, director of Saving Democracy, to join us. Saving Democracy seeks to build a pro-democracy coalition from Liz Cheney conservatives to Bernie Sanders progressives and will conduct educational “deep canvassing” in selected congressional swing districts, focusing on the nation’s democratic tradition and individual liberty in a constitutional democracy. They plan to ask the business community to use the power of their political donations to reward political leaders who are committed to democracy. A research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine, O’Leary also teaches in the Political Science Department at Chapman University. He is the author of Saving Democracy: A Plan for Real Representation in America (2006) and Madison’s Sorrow: Today’s War on the Founders and America’s Liberal Ideal (2020).

Reflections on Illiberalism

In September 2022, we invited Marlene Laruelle, director and research professor at the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affair, to join us. We asked, what have been the key characteristics and driving factors of illiberal movements? To what extent do they share common ideologies and tactics with movements threatening democracy in the United States?

Race and Political Trust in the United States

In May 2022, we invited Shayla C. Nunnally, professor and head of the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee, to join us. We asked, what challenges related to social and political mistrust might we expect when attempting to engage a diverse citizenry in collective action and public deliberation?

Jamesian Pragmatism and the Work of Civic Renewal

In March 2022, we invited Trygve Throntveit, director of strategic partnership at the Minnesota Humanities Center and global fellow for history and public policy at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the author of two books: William James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic (2014) and Power without Victory: Woodrow Wilson and the American International Experiment (2017).

What Matters More, Tribe or Democracy?

In October 2020, we invited Johann N. Neem, a history professor at Western Washington University, to join us. He is the author of Creating a Nation of Joiners: Democracy and Civil Society in Early National Massachusetts (2008), Democracy’s Schools: The Rise of Public Education in America (2017), and What’s the Point of College? Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform (2019).

Beyond the Facts: Public Journalism and Deliberative Democracy

In September 2020, we invited S. J. Min, associate professor of communication studies at Pace University, to share his work on the intertwined futures of democracy and journalism. We asked, Beyond informing the citizenry, what can journalism do to facilitate public deliberation and strengthen our civic life? These are Min’s thoughts on that question and reflections on the conversation that followed.