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MU Author Says Candidates are Unlikely to Resolve Current Democratic Crisis

October 7th, 2016

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Currently, both presidential candidates are quick to lament that the country is in crisis—with plummeting trust in government and a widespread belief that Washington is broken. Yet, according to Alasdair Roberts, professor of public affairs in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, both candidates have failed to tell a coherent story about what is wrong with the country, and how major problems can be fixed. In his upcoming book, Roberts puts the current crisis in historical context, noting that this is not the first time that U.S. democracy has been at a crossroads.

“Americans are questioning the concept of small government and free markets that have dominated the last three decades, but no one really knows what big idea should come next,” Roberts said.  “Both candidates are struggling to develop a coherent view about what the role of government should be. They’re asking voters to trust that they will sort it out after Election Day.  That’s why questions of credibility and temperament are so prominent this year.”

“This crisis won’t get resolved quickly,” Roberts said. “Eventually, a new generation of politicians will develop a coherent winning formula. In the meantime, we’ll continue to see political polarization and confusion.”

Roberts’ book, “Four Crises of American Democracy,” will be published in December. It compares current American politics with three previous periods of political crisis. Roberts also is a Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Public Administration and co-editor of Governance, a leading scholarly journal in the fields of political science and public administration.

Editor’s note: For more information on Alasdair Roberts’ research please see, “When Facing Crisis, American Democracy has Always Risen to the Challenge.”