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Professor Richard H. Pildes to Deliver Elliot Lecture on the Decline of American Government

Professor Richard H. Pildes will deliver the 2012-13 Ralph Gregory Elliot Lecture titled “Romanticizing Democracy and the Decline of American Government,” on Nov. 18, 2013. The lecture will take place at 4:30 pm in the faculty lounge at Yale Law School.

Pildes is the Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Guggenheim and Carnegie fellow.  His work addresses issues such as the design of democratic institutions, the processes of elections and voting, constitutional theory and history, and the processes of government, including separation of powers, administrative law, and national-security law. 

In his lecture, Pildes will discuss how the country’s political institutions seem increasingly able to govern only on the precipice of a crisis.

“My aim is to describe the long-term causes that have led to this paralysis and to explore potential solutions,” said Pildes. A major source of this paralysis, according to Pildes, is what he calls “political fragmentation,” which involves the splintering of the political parties into factions over which political leaders are less and less able to exercise unifying control.

“Solutions are best found in institutional means that re-empower elected leadership of the major parties,” said Pildes. “But solutions of this kind collide with America’s longstanding distrust of political (and other) ‘elites’ and its uniquely participatory vision of democracy. My talk will explore the ways in which this exceptional democratic culture of the United States can undermine the capacity of our actual political institutions to govern effectively.”

Pildes is co-author of the casebook, The Law of Democracy and a co-editor of the book, The Future of the Voting Rights Act. Some of his major recent academic articles in these areas include Law and the President; Why the Center Does Not Hold: The Causes of Hyperpolarized Democracy in America; Is the Supreme Court a “Majoritarian” Institution; The Constitutionalization of Democratic Politics; and Separation of Parties, Not Powers; How Behavioral Economics Trims Its Sails and Why. 

As a public commentator, Pildes was nominated for an Emmy Award for his legal analysis during the 2000 Presidential election litigation, as part of the nomination of an NBC team for Outstanding Coverage of a breaking news story.  He served as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, at the United States Supreme Court.

Following the lecture, a reception will take place in the Alumni Reading Room.