Thinking Out Loud: The Path Forward: A Future for Democracy?

Event Details


Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence, in Thomas Jefferson's handwriting. NYPL digital colllections.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx brings together political analysts from the right and left to ask what the future holds for American democracy and for democracies around the world.


  • Peter Beinart, contributing editor at The Atlantic and associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York
  • Jonah Goldberg, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and senior editor at National Review

Experts across the political spectrum agree: it is not certain how democratic societies will survive the rise of illiberal leaders, populists, and nationalists. Consensus falls apart when they try to answer why that uncertainty exists and how it might be erased.

In his new book, Suicide of the West, Jonah Goldberg argues that the non-democratic surges are not the root causes of our problems but rather symptoms. The liberal political ideals born in the early 18th century, he says, are threatened by ingratitude—by citizens who no longer value the rights and privileges they have been afforded by such ideals. Identity politics, populism, and nationalism, he writes, "are shot through with ingratitude…Simply taking one's good fortune for granted…is enough to destroy a civilization."

Other critics argue that the a powerful and engaged citizenry's ability to participate in democracy is being weakened by the ability of capital to influence politics, in the viral spread of fake news, and in the rise of illiberal leadership. Peter Beinart has written of his concern for an administration that "exhibits less respect for the liberal and democratic norms" and that is "evidence of a global authoritarian turn, a shedding of checks and balances."

The Path Forward is a series convened by Anthony Marx that seeks the wisdom and counsel of voices from different backgrounds and views on some of our most complicated sociopolitical issues. These frank and challenging discussions are aimed at bringing greater understanding and insight into some of the most pressing questions of contemporary American life.


For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. Priority will be given to those who have registered in advance, but registration does not guarantee admission. All registered seats are released shortly before start time, and seats may become available at that time. A standby line will form one hour before the program.

Please send all press inquiries (photo, video, interviews, audio-recording, etc.) at least 24-hours before the day of the program to Ayofemi Kirby at