The Democracy Squad is a virtual organizing space for George Mason University students, staff, faculty, and alumni, to promote positive civic engagement on campus. Organized by Professor Jennifer Victor, Democracy Squad participants commit to building a positive campus environment that promotes democracy. Democracy Squad is administered through Magnify, a social networking tool designed to help people solve collective action problems.
Why Democracy Squad?
There are three reasons it is important to organize the campus community to engage in politics:
- Over the past several years, partisan polarization has contributed to the decline of democratic norms. Political science has shown that democratic institutions fail when citizens and leaders fail to adhere to democratic norms. We can shore up democracy, its institutions and norms, by taking positive actions to reinforce them.
- Politics and policy at the federal level are are damaged and gridlocked. We can reinforce democracy by taking actions in our community.
- Modern American politics are ugly. Conditions are ripe for misinformation, conspiracy, and sometimes violence. As a campus community, it is important to be a model of positive civic engagement. Democracy Squad highlights partisan-neutral, positive civic participation.
What does Democracy Squad do?
Volunteers in Professor Victor’s Democracy Squad connect through Magnify, a social media application designed to facilitate collective action. Democracy Squad includes a collection of projects, big and small, to help facilitate positive civic engagement on campus. Democracy Squad members can join one another’s projects or event, or post their own. Examples include: attend an open panel or talk on campus, attend a local city council meeting, create an info-graphic about misinformation and post it on social media, create a chalk campaign to thank first responders and essential workers, and more!
Can small, individual acts really reinforce democracy?
Yes. How do I know that small, individual acts can reinforce democracy? Because it’s the only thing that ever has. When combined, small acts of individuals add up to collective action. When people reinforce democratic values, the democracy is strengthened.
What type of small acts are most effective at reinforcing democracy?
To support democracy, take actions that directly impact the sources of polarization: inequality, weak parties, and lack of shared information. The books listed below each category help to explain how trouble in these three areas have contributed to polarization. Taking action to correct these, can counteract polarization. Examples of current Democracy Squad projects that speak to these challenging areas are listed below.
1. Inequality (economic, racial, health, education, environmental, etc.). Polarization rises with inequality. Read more about how inequality contributes to democratic decline in these books:
- Larry Bartels, Unequal Democracy (take action: food bank donation project)
- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (take action: share antiracism resources)
- Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law (take action: help elderly people access pharmacies and food)
- Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Let Them Eat Tweets
- Isabelle Wilkerson, Caste
2. Strong political parties have a moderating effect on political candidates. Strengthen parties that support democratic values. People are attracted to extremism and anti-democratic movements when they feel unrepresented. Change election laws to promote multi-partyism and generate more representation.
3. Bifurcated information environment contributes to polarization.
What has Democracy Squad done?
During the peak of the 2020 election season, George Mason University’s Democracy Squad boasted about 120 members who took more than 100 actions in 48 different local projects. Our movement was noticed by the Mason community and spread to other campuses, including University of Texas, Austin.
How do I join Democracy Squad?
Join Democracy Squad by creating an account on Magnify and joining the Democracy Squad organization on Magnify. You can then join a project that is already posted, or create your own project in Democracy Squad. Proposed projects will require approval from Professor Victor. Student generated projects are encouraged and should be consistent with the goals of Democracy Squad: encourage Mason Nation to take positive actions that reinforce democracy, reduce partisan polarization, and support democratic norms and values through civic engagement.
You can also join Democracy Squad using Magnify invite code: “squadgoals.” Democracy Squad is open to any George Mason University student, staff, alumni, or faculty.
STATEMENT OF PRIVACY: The data collected by this form will only be used by Professor Victor or her delegate in an effort to organize students related to election administration in 2020. The data collected here will not be sold or donate to any organization, party, candidate, or other group.
STATEMENT OF NON-PARTISANSHIP: This is a non-partisan activity centered around the promotion of elections and voting. Democracy Squad aims to increase voter turnout, assist voters in the voting process, and assist election administrators in running elections. Democracy Squad does not support any party or candidate and will take no actions to advocate for any party or candidate.