U.S. congressional elections are around the corner. Earlier this year some predicted that Democrats would defy the typical midterm incumbency penalty, but in recent weeks momentum appears to have shifted back to Republicans. We at Boston Review see little point to election forecasting, however—at least for those of us not running campaigns. “Democracy is a habit,” political theorist Melvin Rogers has written in our pages; we should practice it. Whatever the polls are saying, we hope you get out and vote.
Instead of crowding the field with more election prognostication, this week’s reading list surveys the institutional dynamics and historical trends that characterize modern electoral politics. We will know the winners and losers of this year’s contests once the votes have been counted, but knowledge of how the system works will remain indispensable long after the dust of this election settles.
The essays collected here ask big-picture questions about politics and procedure alike. Can more political parties cure our ailing two-party system? How might our electoral systems be reformed to better serve democracy and eliminate the corrupting influence of money and power? How do social movements shape electoral politics, and where does our focus on elections fall short? And what if the threat of election disinformation has less to do with foreign powers and social media platforms than Republican Party bigwigs and Fox News?
We invite you to consider these questions and more as the final weeks of campaigning come to a close.