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Americans much more unified because of the virus, poll finds

Times of crisis often bring people together. And American solidarity has grown in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, a new poll shows.

A vast majority of Americans feel the country has become more unified by its most serious public health emergency in a century, according to a survey released Friday by the nonprofit More in Common, which is focused on combating polarization. But most are also scared about their health and an impending economic depression.

Given how fractured and tribal the country's politics have become in recent decades, the survey offers the slimmest of silver linings: The electorate is capable of finding common ground — it just may take them first confronting a life-altering pandemic.

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Our weakened democracy may be made even weaker by coronavirus

Sarat is a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College.

Responding to its place at the center of the coronavirus pandemic, New York has now joined 13 other states in postponing presidential primaries. Where elections have gone forward, fears of disease exposure have depressed same-day turnout. President Trump is exercising broad emergency powers. Though masked by last week's votes for the economic rescue package, the political system still is awash in hyper-partisanship. Congress is unlikely to check executive branch overreach in a bipartisan way.

Commentators and public officials are rightly concerned about the toll the new coronavirus is taking on democratic processes in the United States.

The problems caused by the current crisis have been layered on top of ongoing voter suppression efforts, partisan gerrymandering and the flood of big money into political campaigns. All are signs that American democracy is in trouble. Thus today it is easy to find headlines asking "Is democracy dying?"

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6 of the most important democracy books of the past 6 months

"Groaning bookshelves about our divisive times" are one of the main features of the publishing world these days, Kirkus Reviews notes. So we identified six books, all published since last summer, that are particularly worthy of note in a campaign season when the faulty functionality of American democracy is getting discussed more than in any previous modern election.

The authors come from the political left, right and center — but they all have a broadly similar panoramic view of the dysfunction plaguing our democracy. And their prescriptions for reversing the decline have more in common than not. What they all agree on: The principles of our Constitution are under assault and the citizenry's only chance at a successful counter attack is by embracing a broad array of plans for strengthening democratic institutions.

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