September 15 is Democracy Day, which more than 120 news organizations, including The Conversation, have designated as a time when we will bring our readers, listeners and viewers stories about the dangers facing democracy in America and around the world.

For any news organization covering politics in this era, every day is Democracy Day, because those threats are all around us, all the time. Here on the politics desk, we decided about two years ago to informally call ourselves the “Democracy Desk,” highlighting the focus of much of our coverage. We even wrote a manifesto of sorts last year.

Here’s some of what we said:

What we cover at The Conversation U.S. is not politics the way many Americans think of it – partisan bickering, horse trading and he-said, she-said false equivalencies. Rather, we cover democracy: what government is and how it happens, why it was set up that way, and what the effects are for individual people, various demographic groups and the nation as a whole.

We help readers understand what values and ideals Americans claim to uphold, the processes by which they seek to do that, and the results – including whether they actually uphold or instead undermine those values and ideals. We explain the nature, workings and results – not of politics, but of democracy.

Some recent examples of our democracy-focused coverage include a story by Vanderbilt University philosopher Robert Talisse, who examines U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s massive Republican primary loss in Wyoming. How could “the endorsement of a one-term, twice-impeached and historically unpopular former president catapult an unknown candidate into a massive win over an effective incumbent,” asks Talisse. To answer that question, he says, “It’s important to recognize that ordinary thinking about how democracy works begins with a mistaken premise.”

And a team of political scientists at Harvard’s Kennedy School looked at the restrictive abortion laws being instituted around the country and asked why government policies sometimes fail to reflect the public’s will. “State legislatures do not always represent public preferences within their states,” they write, delving into the four major phenomena – gerrymandering, low and uneven voter turnout, the design of America’s political institutions and geographic polarization – that contribute to this mismatch.

Also this week in politics news:

Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Society

People wait in line for a free morning meal in Los Angeles in April 2020. High and rising inequality is one reason the U.S. ranks badly on some international measures of development. Frederic J. Brown/ AFP via Getty Images

US is becoming a ‘developing country’ on global rankings that measure democracy, inequality

Kathleen Frydl, Johns Hopkins University

The United States came in 41st worldwide on the UN’s 2022 sustainable development index, down nine spots from last year. A political historian explains the country’s dismal scores.

The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to a push for citizens initiatives to enshrine abortion rights. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Direct democracy can force governments to better represent the people – but it doesn’t always work out

Susan Stokes, University of Chicago

Referendums and citizens initiatives can be a popular way to push politicians to listen to the people – they can also be an exercise in propaganda.

An Indiana Senate committee hearing on a GOP proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, July 26, 2022. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

4 reasons why abortion laws often clash with the majority’s preferences in the US, from constitutional design to low voter turnout

Matthew A Baum, Harvard Kennedy School; Alauna Safarpour, Harvard Kennedy School; Kristin Lunz Trujillo, Harvard Kennedy School

Why do government policies sometimes fail to reflect the public will? The answer begins with the design of the US government system, forged in the 18th century.

Russia’s reliance on mercenaries in Ukraine points to the weakness of its military – and Putin’s strategy of deflecting blame

Christopher Michael Faulkner, US Naval War College

As Ukraine retakes parts of its northeastern region from Russia, the Kremlin continues to increasingly look to private military companies to fill in military power gaps.

Barbara Ehrenreich helped make inequality visible – her legacy lives on in a reinvigorated labor movement

Adia Harvey Wingfield, Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis

The author, who died Sept. 1, 2022, inspired countless researchers to probe the injustices working people face.

Iran and the US appear unlikely to reach a new nuclear deal – leaving everyone more unsafe

Nina Srinivasan Rathbun, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

A nuclear nonproliferation expert explains why Iran was always unlikely to return to the 2015 international agreement that limited its nuclear weapon development.

In states where abortion is banned, children and families already face an uphill battle

Naomi Cahn, University of Virginia

States taking the strictest stands against abortion tend to have among the worst statistics in the nation on child and family well-being.

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