Why Democracies Need the Right to Vote “No”

To Boost Participation and Promote Compromise, Taiwan and Berkeley May Let Citizens Cast Ballots Against Candidates

If we want our civic life to be more positive, we might need to vote in the negative.

That’s the compelling case that Sam Chang, a retired banker who lives in Taipei, was making as I rode BART with him between meetings with California election experts. Chang is the improbable leader of a global effort to establish what is called “the negative vote” or “the balanced ballot.” And he has started with concurrent ballot initiative campaigns to add the “negative vote” to the election system in Taiwan and the city charter …

Preaching Civility Won’t Save American Democracy

Only by Learning to Communicate as Citizens, Not Propagandists, Can We Avert Political Tragedy

It’s obvious that our political discourse is broken. People don’t just yell at one another on cable television, they also do it in restaurants, and on social media. Our communities …

Why Single-Party Domination of Hawai‘i Politics Is Harmful to the Aloha State

The Democrats' Near-Monopoly Makes Voters Tune Out, Sidesteps Urgent Policy Questions, and Places Factional Infighting Above Shared Ideals

Most Americans have become accustomed to the bitter divide between Republicans and Democrats in Washington. Yet closely fought competition between the parties is the exception rather than the rule in …

How Will California Survive the End of America’s Empire?

A Trip to Rome Offers Old Lessons, Young City Officials, and Inspiration for How to Rebuild Democracy on Imperial Ruins

How will California survive the end of the American empire?

The question might seem hypothetical, but I found it inescapable last week in Rome, where I was running a global forum …

Suppressing Voting Rights Is as Old as the Republic—But the Tactics Keep Changing 

Discriminatory State Constitutions, Poll and Literacy Taxes, and Now Photo ID Laws All Have Been Used to Keep Ballots From the Less Powerful 

The more that efforts to suppress voting rights in America change, the more they remain the same.

From the earliest days of the republic to the present, politicians have sought to …

How Venezuela’s Oil Riches Fueled a Literary Explosion

In the Mid-20th Century, Writers Seized on the Conflicts Laid Bare by Petroleum's Power to Reshape Society

On December 14, 1922, a gusher of petroleum was discovered in Zulia, a rural area of western Venezuela. For nine days the oil showered onto the surrounding farmland, scaring the …