Kagan lecture urges the defense of democracy

Robert Kagan speaks in the Lewis Katz Building
Robert Kagan speaks in the Lewis Katz Building Credit: Mary Szmolko

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On Tuesday, March 1, Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, visited the Lewis Katz Building to present his latest lecture, ‘Our Constitutional Crisis is Already Here,’ based on his 2021 op-ed in The Washington Post. The event was presented by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, and was co-sponsored by Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs.

“I think it’s time we take what people say they are going to do seriously."

Kagan opened his lecture by touching on the latest news out of Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his military assault on the country. Suggesting that people need to stop deluding themselves into believing that bad things will not happen, this latest siege on democracy, aggregated with all of the other events that have transpired since his article was first published, has proven, in his opinion, that it was not an overstatement. He advised that we need to take threats against democracy, anywhere, seriously.

Acknowledging that few steps have been taken to repair deficiencies in our own democracy that have been exposed over the last several years, Kagan believes that former president Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the 2024 republican presidential candidate. He also believes that Trump can win a fair election.

“His winning a fair election is a disaster for us, because he has demonstrated that he not only has no regard for democratic principles and customs and behaviors, but he is perfectly willing to run roughshod over them in his own interests,” said Kagan.

Not the first time that an international crisis will shake up the domestic political system

The “only glimmer of hope” for our democracy that Kagan has these days comes from the current international crisis. He believes that it could strengthen those who believe in the idea of democracy within the United States, because of the way the conflict is being portrayed. The main highlight is the difference between the two nations: one is governed as a democracy, and one is governed by a leader that is hostile toward democracy.

Kagan urged students and practitioners to think about how the country got to this point, and how to move forward to protect democracy, at home and abroad.

You can view the lecture in its entirety online here.