Book Chapter - Harper Collins Publishers

Beyond Elections: Foreign Interference with American Democracy

| March 2018

When President George Washington gave his Farewell Address in 1796, he urged the American people “to be constantly awake” to the risk of “foreign influence,” which he called “one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

In the wake of Russia’s meddling in the US election in 2016, President Washington’s warning has a new, chilling resonance. In the immediate aftermath the debate in the United States seemed concentrated on two dimensions of foreign interference—precisely who did what to influence the election, and how the United States and other democracies must fortify cybersecurity for our emails, critical infrastructure, and voting platforms. While pursuing these objectives is extremely important, we need to pay equal attention to an additional dimension of our vulnerability: our adversaries’ ability to subvert our democratic processes by aiming falsehoods at a ripe subset of our population—and not only during our election cycles.

Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America

With the election of Donald J. Trump, many people on both the left and right feared that America’s 240-year-old grand experiment in democracy was coming to an end, and that Sinclair Lewis’ satirical novel, It Can’t Happen Here, written during the dark days of the 1930s, could finally be coming true. Is the democratic freedom that the United States symbolizes really secure? Can authoritarianism happen in America?

Acclaimed legal scholar, Harvard Professor, and New York Times bestselling author Cass R. Sunstein queried a number of the nation’s leading thinkers. In this thought-provoking collection of essays, these distinguished thinkers and theorists explore the lessons of history, how democracies crumble, how propaganda works, and the role of the media, courts, elections, and "fake news" in the modern political landscape—and what the future of the United States may hold.

Additional Contributors include:

Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School
Eric Posner, law professor at the University of Chicago Law School
Tyler Cowen, economics professor at George Mason University
Timur Kuran, economics and political science professor at Duke University
Noah Feldman, professor of law at Harvard Law School
Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business
Jack Goldsmith, Professor at Harvard Law School, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and co-founder of Lawfare
Stephen Holmes, Professor of Law at New York University
Jon Elster, Professor of the Social Sciences at Columbia University
Thomas Ginsburg, Professor of International Law and Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Duncan Watts, sociologist and principal researcher at Microsoft Research
Geoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago Law school professor and noted First Amendment scholar

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Power, Samantha. “Beyond Elections: Foreign Interference with American Democracy.” New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, March 2018.

The Author