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The Pillars of Democracy

The major institutions in American society are in a moment of crisis. From the branches of government to religious and civic organizations, the media, and political parties, these key foundations of American life are less respected, less trusted, and less involved in forming the character of individuals than at any point in our history.

The John W. Kluge Center, with the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, will host the Pillars of Democracy series to explore how institutions work in a functioning society, and grapple with the question of how their decline can be counteracted. These panel discussions will draw on the expertise of a wide range of diverse participants: historians, political scientists, authors, and others from across the ideological spectrum and from a variety of backgrounds, who will help create a full picture of the challenges facing American institutions, and their potential promise.

The Pillars of Democracy series will consist of a series of ten events, held once a month from July 2021 to May 2022. The series begins on July 8 with an analysis of the US Congress.

Each event will focus on one institution, with panelists answering the questions: “What is the institution’s proper role? Where does it fall short? And what can we do about it?”

Event Schedule:

  1. The US Congress – July 8, 2021
  2. The Presidency — August 19, 2021
  3. The Federal Judiciary — September 16, 2021
  4. The Regulatory State — October 21, 2021
  5. Political Parties November — November 18, 2021
  6. Electoral Institutions — January 20, 2021
  7. The Military — February 17, 2022
  8. Churches and Other Civic Institutions — March 17, 2022
  9. The Media — April 21, 2022
  10. Universities and the Academy — May 19, 2022


First event: The US Congress – July 8, 2021

Click here for free registration.


John Haskell, Director of the John W. Kluge Center.



Frances Lee is a professor of political science at Princeton University, 2019 Library of Congress Chair in Congressional Policymaking. Lee is the author of Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign (2016), Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate (2009), and coauthor of Sizing Up The Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation (1999). Lee is the recipient of the American Political Science Association’s Richard F. Fenno Award, the D.B. Hardeman Award from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, and the American Political Science Association’s E.E. Schattschneider award.


Sarah Binder is the most recent Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, and senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. An expert in Congress and legislative politics, her current research explores the historical and contemporary relationship between Congress and the Federal Reserve. Her co-authored book, The Myth of Independence: How Congress Governs the Federal Reserve was published by Princeton University Press in 2017. She is associate editor of The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Philip Wallach is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies America’s separation of powers, with a focus on regulatory policy issues and the relationship between Congress and the administrative state.

Before joining AEI, Dr. Wallach was a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, where he authored “To the Edge: Legality, Legitimacy, and the Responses to the 2008 Financial Crisis” (Brookings Institution Press, 2015). He was later affiliated with the R Street Institute and served as a fellow with the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress in 2019.


This series of events is co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute.

Any views expressed by the panelists are solely their own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of the Library of Congress, the American Enterprise Institute, or the Brookings Institution.

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions. Its mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policymakers and the public.

The American Enterprise Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization where scholars work to expand liberty, increase individual opportunity and strengthen free enterprise.

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