Scholars, pundits, politicians gather in Baltimore for wide-ranging discourse on democracy

Event co-hosted by SNF Agora Institute, Renew Democracy Initiative brings together leading experts to discuss the rise of populist movements and the threat they pose to democracy around the globe

There was a true meeting of the minds in Baltimore on Thursday as more than 20 leading pundits, policymakers, scholars, and journalists visited the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University for a daylong conference centered on the crisis of rising authoritarianism and decreasing democracy around the world.

“The symptoms are all around us,” said Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels during his opening remarks. “We see it in the erosion of public discourse, in the diminishing integrity of free elections, in a media landscape [of] ‘fake news’ … and in the rise of entrenched and bitter partisan animosity.”

Reawakening the Spirit of Democracy,”—co-hosted by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins and the newly launched Renew Democracy Initiative—was “a step toward confronting the causes and conditions of these challenges to liberal democracy, and devising ways to address them,” Daniels said. “It’s also a critical opportunity to model the mutual respect and productive discourse among divergent viewpoints that are so foundational to the democratic process.”

Panelists discussed an array of related topics, including the rise of populism around the globe, free speech controversies on campus, and election meddling by state actors on social media. Pundits and scholars representing political perspectives on both the right and the left shared views on where the Republican and Democratic parties may be headed in the 2020 elections and beyond.

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