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Democracy in America: Reflections on the 2020 Elections

Democracy in America
Monday, November 16, 2020, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Every election is a historic event one way or another, but the 2020 U.S. elections were unique. While the result is usually clear on the night of the election, this year millions of Americans voted early, either in person or by mail because of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the delay in counting all the votes, the race for the White House between Donald Trump and Joe Biden remained unresolved for four days, and even after Joe Biden had become the projected winner, Donald Trump refused to concede, tweeted about alleged fraud, and declared to go to court.

The first event of the recently established Democracy Institute at Central European University will discuss the broader implications of the elections. The speakers, Stephen Holmes (New York University), Michael Ignatieff (CEU), David Runciman (Cambridge University) and Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University) will focus on how the outcomes might affect the evolution of democracy in the USA and worldwide.

Please note that this is an online event. Registration is open at


Stephen Holmes

Stephen Holmes is the Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Center on Law and Security at New York University. After receiving his Ph.D. from Yale in 1976, he taught at various universities including Yale, Wesleyan, and Harvard. In 1985 he joined the faculty at the University of Chicago where he taught in the Political Science Department and the Law School, until 1997, while also being Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe. In addition, he has also been the Director of the Soros Foundation program for promoting legal reform in Russia and Eastern Europe (1994-96). From 1997-2000, Holmes was Professor of Politics at Princeton University. In 2000, he moved to New York University School of Law. At Chicago and NYU he also served as editor-in-chief of the East European Constitutional Review (1993-2003). Besides numerous articles on the history of political thought, democratic and constitutional theory, state-building in post-communist Russia, and the war on terror, his publications include: Benjamin Constant and the Making of Modern Liberalism (1984); Anatomy of Antiliberalism (1993); Passions and Constraint: The Theory of Liberal Democracy (1995); The Cost of Rights, coauthored, with Cass Sunstein (1998); and Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror (2007).

Michael IgnatieffMichael Ignatieff is President and Rector of CEU. An international commentator on contemporary issues of democracy, human rights, and governance and a Canadian citizen, Ignatieff is also an award-winning writer, teacher, former politician, and historian with a deep knowledge of Central and Eastern Europe. Ignatieff received his doctorate in history from Harvard University and has held academic posts at Kings College, Cambridge, the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. He served in the Canadian Parliament and was Leader of the Liberal Party. His books include The Needs of Strangers (1984), Scar Tissue (1992), Blood and Belonging (1993), The Warrior’s Honour (1997), Isaiah Berlin (1998), The Rights Revolution (2000), Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (2001), The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (2004), Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics (2013), and The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World (2017).

David RuncimanDavid Runciman is Professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. He graduated at Eton College, and Trinity College, Cambridge, then worked as a columnist for The Guardian newspaper and has contributed to a wide range of publications including the London Review of Books. In October 2014, he was appointed head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, a position he held until October, 2018. Runciman is the author of many books about politics, including The Politics of Good Intentions (2006), Political Hypocrisy (2008), The Confidence Trap (2015), How Democracy Ends (2018), Where Power Stops (2019). He also hosts the weekly politics podcast Talking Politics, and is a Fellow of the British Academy.

Nadia UrbinatiNadia Urbinati is the Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory at Columbia University. She received her Ph.D at the European University Institute, Florence, and served as visiting professor at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania, and as a lecturer at Princeton University. She is permanent visiting professor at the Scuola Superiore de Studi Universitari e Perfezionamento Sant'Anna of Pisa, and taught at Bocconi University (Milan), SciencesPo (Paris) and the University UNICAMP (Brazil). Her books include Me The People: How Populism Transforms Democracy (2019); The Tyranny of the Moderns (2015); Democracy Disfigured: Opinion, Truth and the People (2014); Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy (2006), and Mill on Democracy: From the Athenian Polis to Representative Government (2002), which received the David and Elaine Spitz Prize as the best book in liberal and democratic theory published in 2002. She also published articles in several international scholarly journals and is also a political columnist for Italian newspapers.


The CEU Democracy Institute strives to enable the renewal and strengthening of democratic and open societies through world-class research, collaboration across academic and professional disciplines, the free exchange of ideas, and public engagement on a local, regional, and global scale. The Institute is based at Central European University’s campus in Budapest, Hungary.