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The “Political Institutions and Challenges to Democracy: America in Comparative Perspective” conference, co-organized by the Social Science Research Council’s Anxieties of Democracy program and Stanford University’s Global Populisms project, brought together scholars of comparative and American politics to present research on the role of parties, the legislature, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, and other institutions in moments that challenge democracy. The conference was held in New York City January 31-February 1, 2019. Questions addressed at the conference included:
• What role, if any, do democratic institutions play in enabling or exacerbating the growth of antisystem sentiment and/or populist appeals? How do the responses of mainstream parties and politicians affect the electoral chances of antisystem candidates?
• Can unresponsive or underperforming democratic institutions contribute to the popularity of populist or antidemocratic candidates? If so, what causes institutions to be(come) unresponsive? What reforms can address these concerns?
• What role do party primaries and other electoral rules play in the electoral success of antisystem politicians? How do the roads to power for populist candidates vary between electoral systems?
• What are the consequences of populist leaders in power for state institutions, such as the bureaucracy, the courts, and other branches of government? What are the consequences for democracy of hollowed out bureaucracies?