Is American Democracy Endangered?

32 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2019

See all articles by David Stebenne

David Stebenne

Ohio State University (OSU) - History

Date Written: 2018


Concerns have grown in recent years about the current health and future prospects of constitutional democracy in the United States. Many of the recent scholarly books and articles on this subject focus on the procedural aspects of that system. This Article explores the tension between those who think of democracy primarily in that way and those who tend to be more outcome-oriented when deciding whether constitutional democracy is performing well. That second group tends to see the decline of the American middle class—economically, politically, socially, and culturally—as proof that the American system of constitutional democracy is failing.

In order to evaluate the respective merits of those two schools of thought, this Article considers first what the American system was like during the two earlier eras in which the middle class was dominant. (The first stretched from the American Revolution through the mid-nineteenth century, and the second from the mid-1930s through the late 1960s.) Next it looks at how the American system of constitutional democracy has changed since the middle class began to decline in the early 1970s. The Article concludes by discussing recent debates over such things as presidential power, the nature of political representation, gerrymandering, limiting the right to vote, civics education, civility in public discourse, the role of the mass media, and the system of electing the President in order to understand why the democratic proceduralists think so differently about these aspects of American democracy than those who emphasize middle-classfriendly outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Stebenne, David, Is American Democracy Endangered? (2018). Drake Law Review, Vol. 66, 2018, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 472, Available at SSRN: or

David Stebenne (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - History ( email )

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230 Annie and John Glenn Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-117
United States

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