At a time of potential danger to American democratic norms and institutions, it is more urgent than ever for scholars to highlight the risks to our system of government. In this spirit, Bright Line Watch brings together a group of political scientists to monitor democratic practices, their resilience, and potential threats.
American politics finds itself at a crossroads in both the Biden presidency and the aftermath of the Trump administration. Last November’s midterm elections delivered a Republican House majority, reestablishing divided government and curtailing the burst of legislative activity that marked the end of 2022. The field of Republican presidential candidates has mushroomed but formal debates will not begin until late summer. Most notably, former president Donald Trump’s legal morass has deepened as investigations into his conduct advance. In April 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on charges related to his payment of hush money to an adult film star during the 2016 election campaign. In June, Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump on his handling of classified documents after leaving office. In mid-July, Trump received a “target letter” from Smith pointing toward a likely indictment related to the aftermath of the 2020 election and the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The investigation by Fulton County, Georgia district attorney Fani Willis into Trump’s efforts to alter that state’s 2020 election results could result in further criminal charges. In this context, and with attention to the potential implications of these developments for the performance of American democracy, we fielded parallel surveys of 569 political scientists and a representative sample of 2,776 Americans from June 29-July 11, 2023.
Bright Line Watch in the media
A Year After Jan. 6, Millions of Americans Support Violence by Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam at The New York Times, 1/5/2022
Why Jan. 6th Was Not A Turning Point by FiveThirtyEight Politics, 1/4/2022
by Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post, 12/23/2021
Republicans’ belief in Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ holds steady as confidence in U.S. elections dips by Eli Stokols at Los Angeles Times, 12/16/2021