The current Journal of International Affairs editorial board is diverse, comprising of students from countries across six continents, ranging from the oldest constitutional democracy in the world to four ex-Commonwealth states, one of which gained independence less than 60 years ago. Regardless of our backgrounds, we, like the majority of the diverse student body at SIPA, had our worldviews shaken by the historical events of 2016 and 2017: multiple impeachments, social-media driven uprisings, unpredictable political campaigns that redefined expectations and bewildered analysts, covert interference in national elections, and referendums that wreaked political havoc. In the United Kingdom, a win by the "Leave" camp made it clear that predictive polls have to be taken with a grain of salt. Catalonia attempted to declare independence from Spain through popular referendum. Turkey continues to crack down on society following a failed coup attempt, while the Zimbabwean military overthrew long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
At the same time, democracies around the world experienced triumphant firsts. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) struck a landmark peace agreement 50-years in the making. Political scandals surrounding South Korean President Park Geun-hye led to a grassroots-driven impeachment in South Korea--the first for the country since 1948. While debates continue on the extent and role of foreign interference in the 2016 United States presidential elections, over 5 million women across 84 countries took to the streets in a historic march for "Women's Rights as Human Rights" following the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States.
At this uncertain moment in time, the editors of The Democracy Issue brought together prominent experts, thought leaders, and political figures from across the world to debate and discuss the current state of democracy and democracies in the world. Professor Lisa Anderson at Columbia SIPA evaluates the ability of political science to explain recent political phenomena. Alvaro Gomez del Valle Ruiz, graduate student at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, considers troubling non-democratic practices in the world's democracies that harm the political system itself.
In addition to gauging the general state of democracy and political analysis, our authors have addressed specific aspects of this issue. Anya Schiffrin, professor and...