Daniel Smutek is a rising junior, majoring in English

(What is From the Field?  Check out the series welcome post to learn more!)  The post that follows is the last of this segment on the film Iron Jawed Angels.


Katja von Garnier’s 2004 film, Iron Jawed Angels illustrated the events of the 1920’s women’s suffrage movement, as well as the challenges they faced from an opposing male population. Alice Paul and members of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage (CU) were faced with discouraging comments and sexist remarks from men who were determined to bar them from earning their right to vote. Often, the question as to why men were against women’s suffrage is overlooked. In the times before the women’s suffrage movement, men held many responsibilities that women did not have according to societal norms that date back to Biblical times. The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment served as a breakthrough event that overturned such norms. Now, one hundred years later, the line between what responsibilities men and women are expected to do has been blurred. To many respects, this change transpired for better. Thereby, it warrants the question: why were men opposed to allowing women to vote? Because they perceived a threat to their masculinity, the male population believed they had to do everything in their power to stop the CU from achieving its goal to defend it.

On several occasions in the film, one or more male characters were depicted making a discouraging or sexist remark. That is, either directly to the women picketing in the streets or behind closed doors in conversation. In one scene, Alice Paul, who was played by the actress, Hilary Swank, comments that most of the men she encountered were “either idiots or terrified of me” (Iron Jawed Angels). Despite making remarks about women not having the capabilities to vote for state and national leaders, men recognized their potential, and that their persistence would likely result in a constitutional amendment. Their support for women would not only help them convince President Woodrow Wilson and the United States Congress to pass such an amendment, but it would cost them their masculinity according to a subconscious perception. In the episode of the Hidden Brain podcast titled “Playing The Gender Card: Overlooking And Overthrowing Sexist Stereotypes,” host Shankar Vedantam suggests that when women begin to dominate a male-oriented field or profession, men feel as though their masculinity at risk. In the situation where a formerly male-oriented occupation becomes female-oriented, they feel like they have lost a significant part of what makes them a man.

Additionally, Vedantam characterizes masculinity as something that is “hard to gain and very easy to lose” (“Playing The Gender Card: Overlooking And Overthrowing Sexist Stereotypes”). For example, if a growing boy does not develop the characteristics attached to the male gender, he is not considered masculine. To illustrate further, young men who enter professions that are thought to be more female oriented such as nursing or housekeeping will not be regarded as masculine according to a formerly popular opinion. In order to be considered masculine, they would need to develop qualities associated with the respective gender, as well as enter more male oriented professions such as working as a car mechanic or entering into military service. Back to the matter of suffrage, granting women the right to vote likely struck most men as a revolutionary event where women would take over the political sphere that they once had complete control over. Thereby making men who participate in electing regional or national leaders less masculine given the proposition Vedantam made in his podcast. Another proposition to consider when thinking about this matter is the question of why women were not allowed to vote from the beginning. In other words, was there ever a set rule from the government or even the Bible that prohibited women from voting?

Having mentioned the Bible, as part of the Gender Family and Politics course, I and several other students prepared for and engaged in a debate regarding to two main perspectives for how women should behave in society. That is, according to what is written in the Bible. Our main source of information came from William M. Swartley’s book, Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation. The two main perspectives he presented in his book regarding how women should behave in respects to men are hierarchical and liberationist, though variations exist between them. The former holds that women should be subordinate to men, no questions asked, while the latter holds that women and men are called into mutuality in a relationship with one another. Furthermore, while there may be different societal roles prescribed to either gender, neither men nor women should be limited to those roles according to the liberationist perspective.

There exists no definite or Bible-driven answer as to whether or not there should be a rigid hierarchy among men and women. Especially considering the fact that sin has corrupted the relationship that both genders have been called into. Sin may also be the catalyst for why men and women have placed each other into a rigid hierarchy that has, since the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, begun to fade into obscurity. Alas, neither gender will be bound to the prescribed roles that society once held them to. Yet, there will still remain a portion of the population that believes that men should act like men and women should act like women according to the hierarchical perspective. Those in favor of it perceive considerable differences between the two genders.

Child development also adds important perspective on the impact of gender roles that arise according to sociocultural factors. Alice Eagly and Wendy Wood analyzed the differences between the “nature” and “nurture” theories behind the psychology of gender. “[Nature] refers to biological structures and processes and nurture refers to sociocultural influences” (340). That is to say, the nurture theory is based on how boys and girls model their own lifestyles based on what they experience. For example, if a boy grows up in a house where the mother works and the father is the stay-at-home parent, he may be more likely to model his life after his father (based on the popular opinion that boys generally tend to model themselves after their fathers). This example is a less common occurrence, and in most cases, the father would work while the mother assumes the role of stay-at-home parent. In situations like this, the boy would still be expected to model his life after the working father. However, that is not always the case. According to Vendantam’s podcast, discussed earlier, this could cost the boy his masculinity, even at a young age. Over time, this could pressure the boy in question into making himself more of a man in the eyes of a sexist society. Thereby hindering himself from becoming his own person.

Society limits and hinders from people achieving who they truly are. Neither gender is bound to act like a man or a woman according to popular beliefs or expectancies. While there are Bible-prescribed roles for each gender, neither one is limited to those roles. Looking back to the times when women were denied the right to vote, it seems absurd that they would be limited to the status of housekeeper and silent wife. Now, women have many more opportunities than ever and have prospered in the political realm. Both men and women should not be hindered by society to act as they are often expected. Unfortunately, some will feel the need to act as they are expected. That was likely the disposition of the male population that fought against Alice Paul and the CU.

Jill Cuervo is a senior majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies, as well as Spanish


(What is From the Field?  Check out the series welcome post to learn more!)

As depicted in Iron Jawed Angels, only a hundred years ago were women arrested and carried away by police simply for peacefully protesting for their right to vote. Now, one hundred years later, white women in the United States celebrate the anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, while people of color and their allies rush the streets protesting systematic racism and police brutality. The same cities that hosted marches and picketing for women’s suffrage now receive the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The years 1920 and 2020 reflect a clear image of each other: United States citizens exercising the rights of liberation and progress. However, each of these movements faced extreme suppression by the same government that promised to protect these very rights. Both BLM and the suffrage movement experienced media manipulation and unfounded arrests at the hands of the government.

President Woodrow Wilson utilized his power to manipulate and silence the media to push back against the women’s suffrage movement. Both Alice Paul and Woodrow Wilson recognized its power and strategize against each other to use the media to help their cause. Wilson, in arresting the suffragists tried to discredit the movement while Paul recognized that their picketing was no longer being overlooked. Even bad attention was good attention. In order to stop this, Wilson moved to complete censorship. He would not let the women win. A scene in Iron Jawed Angels shows Wilson talking with news reporters asserting that there is to be no mention of the picketing in the papers. (Iron Jawed Angels). Despite the outright censorship done on the part of the President, the suffrage movement persisted. Government opposition and control of the media is not unique to the suffrage movement. News sources and presidential administrations may change, yet the same tactics to suppress social progress remain the same.

One hundred years later, explicit censorship is not a prevalent concern, however, racial bias plagues the media and manipulates public opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement. Racial bias in the media reveals itself in language used and generalizing statements. These methods of racial bias towards the BLM movement are especially evident in the tabloid New York Post. Specifically, the New York Post often uses terminology such as “blacks” when referring to Black people and claiming that the Black Lives Matter movement is responsible for “Cop assassinations.” More than the movement itself, the New York Post extends its racial bias to the African American community. Racial bias leads people to believe the misconceptions around Black Lives Matter and African Americans. Media with racially charged language is used to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. An uninformed audience can easily read this article and oppose the social change that the Black Lives Matter movement attempts to bring.

Complete censorship and racial bias are different tactics to manipulate the media, however, the motivation of debilitating the movements were the same. Racial bias leads people to believe the misconceptions around Black Lives Matter and African Americans. In the same way that Wilson attempted to discredit the suffragists, media with racially charged language is used to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. Thankfully, the suffrage movement and the Black Lives Matter movement persist despite media distortion and censorship.

In addition to media manipulation, the second form of suppression of the suffrage movement was arresting picketers. The suffragists peacefully protest, a right granted by the government that should not be impeded on, no matter the cause. In the movie Iron Jawed Angels, the audience watches as the suffragists become victims of police force, ultimately resulting in the conviction of traffic obstruction. The picketers insist that they did not break any laws and are sent to jail for refusal to pay the fine.  While the suffragists may have been direct and purposeful, they were not violent. The police used their force to remove and arrest the picketers regardless of their peaceful tactics. Convicting the suffragists of traffic obstruction was an easy way for the government to impede women’s rights to petition with a desire to silence and send them away

The United States government is consistent in its methods of force, even a century later, and a different social movement. Like the suffrage movement, the Black Lives Matter movement received the same police resistance in order to be forced into silence and subjected to their control. Many protesters share their experience of being forcibly taken by the police while exercising their right to petition. Those who feel strongly about the injustice done in the United States expect to protest in the street unharmed. United States citizens are taught that they have a voice in what goes on in the government without consequence. Chan, in her article on the impact of arrests on protesters, tells the story of D’Angelo Sandidge, who while protesting, was arrested for being past curfew time. Furthermore, Chan notes, “An Associated Press tally found more than 10,000 protesters were arrested in just the first 10 days after Floyd’s death on May 25.” (Chan 2020, 58). Implementing a curfew in cities where thousands of protestors are on the streets is used to assert power and control the protestors.

Traffic obstructions and breaking curfew are similar in that both instances legitimize government oppression of these movements. Similarly to the suffragists and their convictions of traffic obstruction, many Black Lives Matter protesters arrive in jail for staying out past curfew. Both reveal the ways that the government pushes back and uses terms of technicality to cover it up. The government is willing to forcefully subdue any citizen exercising their right to protest.

The year 2020 brought an abundance of surprises. However, what was completely expected was the ways in which the government would respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. In analyzing the government response to the suffrage movement one hundred years earlier, manipulations of the media and mass arrests were anticipated. The years 1920 and 2020 mirror each other in regard to their respective social movements and the similarities between the two. While the two movements have different causes, both faced similar obstacles from the government. Due to the fact that the government continued to respond to these social movements with methods to silence and subdue demonstrates that the future presents itself with many opportunities for improvement.


Amani Monroe is a junior, majoring in Politics and International Relations


(What is From the Field?  Read our series welcome post as well as the introduction to this spring’s segment to learn more!)

The Suffragist Movement in the United States served as a huge victory for American women in the early 1900s. It became a symbol of the trials and tribulations that women had to go through in order to be represented in the political sphere so that they could be able to have their voices heard. The movement motivated women from various backgrounds to come together and fight to achieve a common goal, which was the right to vote. The movement also shed light on different issues that women were fighting to resolve, such as the issue of poor working conditions, workforce competition, domestic rights, and the negative stereotypes surrounding women that undermined them for decades. The movement was a time of celebration for women in America gaining the freedom and democracy that they’ve endured so much to gain.

The movie Iron Jawed Angels does a great job at giving insight on the many aspects surrounding the Suffragist Movement. It emphasizes the struggles women went through when trying to express their concerns and showing just how harsh the battle was for women to gain the rights that they should’ve always had. The movie makes reference to many aspects surrounding the movement such as African American women’s participation in the movement, elements of first and second wave feminism, and the different opinions on whether women should be able to vote during the time of the movement.

Negro Women’s Participation

In the film, Alice Paul, one of the most prominent leaders in the suffragist movement organizes a parade in Washington D.C to campaign for women to gain the right to vote. This scene in the movie depicted the segregation between black and white people, specifically black and white women. The film shows the interaction between Ida B. Wells and Alice Paul, in which Wells proposes that negro women join Alice Paul in their parade and Alice hesitates, as she knows if she allows the negro women to join the parade, they will lose the Southern support that they already had. This experience remains consistent with history as African American women were excluded from national campaign activities out of a worry that such visible involvement would “only exacerbate the latent antagonism of those politicians from Dixie and would thereby reinforce and guarantee their opposition to woman suffrage,” and that “it was expedient to ignore Black women when advocating for support in the South,” as noted by Barbara Burrell in Women and Politics: A Quest for Political Equality in an Age of Economic Inequality (25). However, although not depicted in the movie, there was some rooted hatred of negro women by white women. This enmity existed because white women were upset that former slaves were given voting rights through the Fifteenth Amendment, which led to the abandonment of the women’s movement alliance with African Americans. The lack of negro women’s participation in the Suffrage Movement sheds light on the hypocrisy surrounding the movement. The movement was meant to give women in America the rights that they so deserve; however, the movement excluded African American women from participating. This action shows that the movement was never for all women, but for the women that fit the narrative of the leaders of the Suffrage Movement.

First Wave Feminism

First wave feminism focused on suffrage, better opportunities in working conditions, and had an initial anti-immigration rhetoric because immigrants were seen as competitors in the workforce. Burrell notes that the anti-immigration rhetoric was adopted into the suffragist movement “either out of expediency or from a growing conservative belief system, which limited an alignment across classes for women’s rights” (24). These elements of first wave feminism are also shown in the film, as its central focus is on women’s suffrage, but also the recruiting of women who suffered from poor working conditions as well. In the beginning of the movie, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns are handing out flyers to push their campaign, in which they argue back and forth with a working woman who is suffering from these poor working conditions. By the end of their bantering, she changes her mind about the importance of suffrage to change these conditions and helps them pass out flyers to support the cause. Burrell affirms the source of leadership, “The suffrage movement was primarily a middle-class and elite women’s movement. Over the course of the long campaign to win the vote, some efforts were made to bring working- class women into the campaign and to improve labor conditions for employed women” (23).  Widening the base of support was crucial to the success of the movement.

Second Wave Feminism

Second wave feminism focused more on reproductive rights, domestic rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment – even though some of these issues would rise later in history, the filmmakers conveyed their relevance. In the film, we see the concept of domestic rights represented. Around this time, women lacked domestic rights, which included their lack of say in custody battles. Before women were given these rights, the child would automatically go to the husband during this time period because he was seen as more reliable and financially stable. Often times, the mother would have no say in these rulings, an experience referenced in the film when Senator Leighton finds out that his wife, Emily, went to the suffragists’ trial. He threatened to take the children away from Emily, to which Emily says, “You won’t take my children.” The Senator responds, “How will you stop me? Can you afford an attorney”. This scene shows how little influence women had in the courts as during this time, as most women did not work and often stayed at home; Emily was simply known as the Senator’s wife and had no other occupation explicitly stated.

Differing Opinions

There were many different opinions on the topic of suffrage that raised the question of if women were capable of voting or not and the film hints at some of these different perspectives. There are many views that say that women are not capable of voting, because it would distract them from their role of being a mother. This perspective is illustrated in the film when Senator Leighton says, “I don’t know what kind of mother takes an 11-year-old to a district courthouse. Did you give her a look at the jail, too,” when Emily goes to view the suffragist trial. This statement shows how common it is for women to be looked down upon when not fulfilling the classic “motherly role.”  Women during this time were expected to be in the home and taking care of the children. It was definitely considered out of character if women were seen doing anything other than that.

However, there are many who believe that allowing women to vote would actually improve their ability to be a good mother to her children. In her essay, “The Ballot As An Improver of Motherhood,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman embodies this latter view and, in her writing, argues that “with stunted human beings in the maternal role, children cannot develop properly. Full citizenship rights will make mothers more capable of educating their children properly. Endowed with political rights, women will see themselves as part of a larger community. With this expansion of their own sense of self, mothers will be able to impart to their children an expansive, communitarian view of their roles in society” (145). She believed that allowing women to branch out from their former role of being the “model” mother would actually be beneficial to her children, and allowing mothers to vote would better equip their children with knowledge of the political sphere and the communities that they live in. In the film, Emily Leighton is imprisoned for her participation in the suffragists’ peaceful protests. Her husband comes to visit her and asks her to come home because the children miss her. Emily responds, “They are the only reason I am here.”  This shows that just her involvement in the suffrage movement strengthened her resolve as a mother and through her experience, has better equipped her to be a mother to her children and fight for their future in the political sphere.


The film Iron Jawed Angels shows the both the valuable and concerning aspects of the Suffrage Movement. It does not fully touch on the hypocrisy of the movement when it discriminated against Negro women’s participation, but it does shed some light on how even Negro women were not excluded for participating in women’s rights. It shows us the different things that women were fighting for during the movement and reminds those who watch that it was not just about getting the right to vote. The movement was about having women be seen as equal in the eyes of the American government and the women’s want to experience the freedom and democracy that their male counterparts had. The film showed both the negative and positive opinions surrounding the concept of allowing women to vote as well. Overall, Iron Jawed Angels meets the criteria of an insightful historical account regarding the Suffrage Movement in America in the early 1900s.


(What is From the Field?  Check out the series welcome post to learn more!)

Robin Lauermann, Professor of Politics

This spring’s segment of From the Field features posts from students in the department’s Gender, Family and Politics course this past fall.  During the course, the students analyzed the film Iron Jawed Angels  in light of historical texts as well as socio-psychological theories and evidence.  The blogs featured in this segment distill findings from papers of students who presented on a panel at the university’s humanities symposium, which took place earlier this month.  The posts that follow in these next months cover a range of topics: the threat perceived by some members of society in granting the right to vote to women, the impact of the suffrage movement advancing white women’s rights rather than those of all, and the relevance of political protests from the movement to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.

In addition to viewing the film, you should visit this site, which puts the film in an even deeper historical context, created by former students at Utah State University!

(What is Tocqueville Capital?  Read the welcome post to learn more!)


In her widely-viewed TED Talk, “Color Blind or Color Brave?” Mellody Hobson raises a critical point of discussion related to the contemporary state of race in American society.  Hobson, chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation, questions whether people can address significant issues without talking about them.  The tendency to take on a “color blind” approach can lead to the practice of ignoring problems that still exist. Instead, a “color brave” approach allows us to learn to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable” so that we can better solve problems because we gain insights from those whose lives differ from our own (7:07).  Hobson’s words apply not only to our own behavior but to the ways that government makes policy.

Sociologist Leland Saito demonstrates the collective impact of color blind – or more formally termed “race-neutral” – policies in complicating the experience of groups who have previously been legally (and socially) marginalized in The Politics of Exclusion: The Failure of Race-Neutral Policies in Urban America.  Reading his book several years ago for a book review project, I was struck by the important role that community activism served to challenge such policies and create a more inclusive society, revealing the importance of groups having a critical mass to promote change.  In contrast with other authors featured in this series, Saito takes issue with some of Tocqueville’s underlying assumptions surrounding American democracy. Specifically, he argues that Tocqueville – and other thinkers who treated slavery as a temporary condition in political development – overestimates the intentions of earlier eras in pursuing equality.  A closer look reveals that Tocqueville perceived the long-term implications of slavery and the exclusion of native populations, despite being shaped by his own prejudicial images of these people.

Saito’s case studies affirm that community activism exists at the heart of successful movements to elevate perspectives that have not always been historically included. In San Diego, Chinese and Black historical societies helped to raise the overall community support for the Chinese Mission and Clermont hotel by highlighting the positive historical impact of these sites, overcoming purely economic interests that desired to rezone the land (Chapters 2-3).  In the 1990 New York City redistricting efforts, the failure to allow for the construction of a critical voter mass by focusing purely on the numerical division of districts excluded Asian American voices from positions of power (Chapters 4-5). This process was replicated in “sweetheart deals” of California redistricting that protected existing incumbents without reflecting the underlying populations; Asian Pacific and Mexican American legal organizations mobilized to partially overturn these efforts, increasing the chance for the political system to attend to their constituents’ interests (Chapter 6). The activism in these cases served as an example of color bravery (in Hobson’s words) and, Saito argues, challenged Tocqueville’s framing that the idea of slavery/ discrimination (and their legacies) was an “aberration” (3). However, Tocqueville’s recorded thoughts offer a much more complex view.

Tocqueville offers a sympathetic but still prejudicial perspective of the experience of those born outside of the Anglo-American tradition.  Acknowledging that the “supremacy of democracy” is only experienced by one point of view, he describes the oppressive and exclusive experience of slaves and freed persons, as well as Native Americans:

Both of them occupy an inferior rank in the country they inhabit; both suffer from tyranny; and if their wrongs are not the same, they originate, at any rate, with the same authors. If we reasoned from what passes in the world, we should almost say that the European is to the other races of mankind, what man is to the lower animals;—he makes them subservient to his use; and when he cannot subdue, he destroys them. Oppression has, at one stroke, deprived the descendants of the Africans of almost all the privileges of humanity (Vol 1, Chapter XVIII, Part 1, pars. 5-6).

Throughout this chapter, spanning ten parts, he paints a vivid picture of the relations between European, African and indigenous people, demonstrating their very unequal experiences, and calling into question the ethics arising from the rejection of their equal status as fellow humans.

Despite this recognition, Tocqueville’s analysis also offers some stereotypical characterizations of these people groups.  His apt assessment of the impact of colonization on native populations also echoed sentiments of the time that characterized native societies as “savage nations…less civilized…barbarous” rather than allowing for divergent values and structures of civilization (i.e. Vol 1, Chapter XVIII, Part I, par. 9).  Likewise, his astute perception of the economic incentives (particularly in the south) for slavery and the growing conflict between European and African Americans as more former slaves achieved their freedom, reflected his European-bred impressions of the African continent:

the barbarous Africans have been brought into contact with civilization amid bondage, and have become acquainted with free political institutions in slavery. Up to the present time Africa has been closed against the arts and sciences of the whites; but the inventions of Europe will perhaps penetrate into those regions, now that they are introduced by Africans themselves. (Vol 1, Chapter XVIII, Part I, par. 15)

Tocqueville rightly anticipated the continuing impact of these historical experiences on the future.  Indigenous communities still experience struggle despite their tribal sovereign status, as illustrated by their much higher rates of COVID.  African Americans have faced – and continue to do so – sought to achieve social and political equality, as well as economic opportunity.  However, his ethnocentric perceptions of other cultures muddied the strength of his analysis of their oppressed conditions.

From their different vantage points in time, both Saito and Tocqueville recognize the stubborn legacy of exclusion.  The case studies that Saito examines in this study reflect the challenges that society experiences in trying to submerge its uncomfortable past through race-neutral policies.  Tocqueville questioned whether a future could exist in which full equality would be restored (Vol 1, Chapter XVIII, Part 3). Education, acknowledgment, and inclusion allow an opportunity to reconcile with the past and avoid perpetuating historical legacies in contemporary social, economic and political spheres.  Even as we acknowledge injustice within society, we can remain unaware of how our own views may still be shaped by psychological and social forces such as implicit bias.  As shared by attorney Bryan Stevenson in this recent episode of On Being, our moral imagination can help motivate us to learn more about those whose lives have followed different paths and gain perspective on their experiences.  That imagination, along with our own bravery, can allow us to contribute to the positive transformation of relationships within our society. We cannot undo the past, but we can work to change the patterns that have excluded members from political rights, as well as social and economic opportunities, within our system.

(What is Civic Mind?  Read our welcome post for the series!)

In early February, reports surfaced that individuals who had served in the George W Bush administration left the Republican Party.  Although changes in party membership or registration can occur after elections, due to the reciprocal effect that electoral contexts have on party identification, the extent of movement by elites in the party is much less common.  Even more distinctive, a growing conversation is beginning to emerge about the possible formation of a new third party.  Countless analyses exist that focus on the prospects for the creation of new parties or questions of a realignment in existing ones (see the segment on our sister series From the Field).  Future developments will result from a complex set of variable factors.

Although the future is uncertain, the process of understanding why these events are currently happening is much more feasible.  For several decades, the Republican Party has incorporated multiple groups with different strands of thought.  That difference is not unusual in a two-party system but becomes a challenge for party durability when the strands cannot find common ground or the dominant strands are highly unrepresentative of voter sentiments.  The underlying ideologies of these groups, and the array of perspectives more broadly, reveal why maintaining the status quo is unlikely – though not impossible.

Ideologies serve as a value framework by which people evaluate political systems and other elements of society.  These views provide the substance behind the labels/names of political parties but are not the same as the parties.  For example, the Democratic and Republican parties have served as the two major parties, alternating in their electoral success and government leadership, since 1860.  However, extensive research on the evolution of these parties over time has shown that the parties do not stand for the same set of views as they did 160 years ago.   In addition to changing coalitions of voters, certain strands/interests within a party may become more prominent at different points in time.  (For more details on the evolution of the American party system, see Krasner’s The Two-Party System in the United States, or Sundquist’s Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States, a more detailed discussion of the first through fourth party systems.)

A basic example comparing stances on two issue domains illustrates the complexity of ideology.  Imagine a simplified political setting in which two sets of issues prevailed –social (aspects relating to individual beliefs and lifestyles) and economic (aspects relating to how goods and services are made, allotted and consumed).  In a simplified perspective, individuals have two stances that they may take within each domain.  Socially, they may believe that government should provide more regulation over individual lives or that government should act minimally; economically they may also believe in a greater or lesser degree of government action.  Considering just these two domains, a minimum of four different ideologies might result:

  • modern conservative (oppose the extension of individual liberties where they contradict traditional morality and government intervention in the economy)
  • libertarian (support the extension of individual freedom and oppose government intervention in the economy)
  • modern liberal (support extension of individual freedom and government intervention in the economy)
  • populist (oppose the extension of individual liberties and support government intervention in the economy)

Adding more domains of policy and variations in intensity within each domain, this list is far from exhaustive. (For a more thorough overview of political belief variation, see Andrew Heywood’s Political Ideologies: An Introduction.)

Acknowledging that more domains and positions along each domain spectrum exist, it becomes clear that simply framing in terms of liberal and conservative is insufficient.  And yet, this approach is the most common way to measure ideology.  Typically people are asked to place themselves and others (i.e. candidates) on a 7 point scale from extremely liberal to extremely conservative.  This chart from the American National Elections Study (ANES), a highly trusted resource for those analyzing political beliefs and behavior of the public, reveals a few important details.  First, a large plurality of Americans declines to place themselves in either category on this continuum. Second, extreme ideological perspectives compose a small portion of the population (though a larger proportion of registered voters and the politically engaged).  Ultimately, the liberal-conservative distinction does not provide an accurate sense of the political landscape.  (For more background on ideology more generally, take a look at this article by Time on the origins of the terminology for left and right.)

Some alternate approaches to measuring ideology provide more useful images of the American public’s political composition.  Many researchers who use the ANES data tend to examine more specific issue domain placement and the relationship of individual views across domains.  Not only does this approach allow for a more complex view of political beliefs, but also the contradiction between general and domain-specific views.  In Tides of Consent, political scientist James Stimson found that most people’s professed political identity (symbolic ideology) does not necessarily match preferences and actions that people present in concrete situations (operational ideology).  Moreover, individuals who symbolically identified as conservatives were much more likely to demonstrate operational support for liberal ideas than symbolic liberals were to show operational support for conservative ideas.  Pew Research provides just one helpful way to consider different ideological segments of the parties, based on individual placement on several issues; this approach allows for both intensity within and variation across issues.  Likewise, public opinion scholar Martin Wattenberg finds that examining policy stance and its consistency provides a much different picture of the public, with twice as many individuals demonstrating ideological tendencies compared with basic left-right definitions.

Within any system, parties themselves may be more or less ideologically coherent at different points in history.  In two-party predominant systems, parties ultimately need to appeal to voters a bit more broadly to win an election and to consistently do so to continue to win.  That approach not only tends towards more moderate positions but also appeals to shared values across multiple strains of ideologies.  To the extent that the party departs from consensus, or even has difficulty building it, parties experience difficulty in balancing the interests of one or more groups.   In the latter part of the 20th century, the Republican Party increased its popular support by pursuing policies that were supported by libertarians and modern conservatives, primarily focused on decreasing government regulation and other economic aspects.  As the party drew more attention to issues associated with social conservativism, it created tensions with the libertarian wing where those policies intruded on individual lifestyle and morality.  Once the Tea Party – a political group, but not a political party that fielded candidates under its label – came on the scene, it added a third element, one that reflected not only its stated anti-establishment goals but came to reflect the rise of populism on the right.  (Note: Populism is not inherently a left or right-leaning experience, but rather a technique in its own right.)  This recent evolution has led to significant challenges with more traditional economic and foreign policy stances of the party.

These strands have had mixed results in generating consistent policy alignment, more successful in mounting challenges when the opposing party is in power but finding it difficult to propose policy that aligns with all three strands.  Thus, it is not surprising that one or more of the groups are chafing at the current direction of the party.  None of the strands aligns with elements of the Democratic Party and its platform; absent a purely strategic decision to align with Democrats in the short term, the formation of a “bolter” party, would allow longer-term Republicans to refocus their platform in a way that perhaps connects with a broader portion of the public.  In terms of a longer-term strategy, this move might shift the political system from one of increasing overreach, to connect with the broader swath of Americans who see themselves as fairly centrist.  This attempt at forming a new party may or may not lead to a new party that effectively contests elections, but regardless, it would have long-term consequences for how it encourages the existing parties and their voters to adapt.

(What is Tocqueville Capital?  Read the welcome post to learn more!)

On January 20th of this year, the nation anxiously watched the peaceful transfer of power, long a hallmark of democracy, after more than two months of heated claims of inaccurate presidential election outcomes, which culminated in a riot at the Capitol just two weeks before.  The day was marked with historic firsts – Kamala Harris’s inauguration as the first female, African American and Southeast Asian American vice president, and the inclusion of the first National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, as one of the contributors to the ceremony.  Gorman’s inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, captured many profound insights, but also called Americans together to act, “It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.” Her words demonstrate the challenges for a people with a complex history to reconcile and reform their country, rather than fully reject it because of past and present conflicts and injustices.

Reflecting on his experiences as a journalist in What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, Dan Rather offers his perspective on values that Americans have previously shared, and perhaps can once again, unite.  Centering his argument in a discussion of patriotism, he characterizes our duty to “see [our] love of country imbued with a responsibility to bear witness to its faults…we are bound together by a grand experiment in government, the rule of law, and common bonds of citizenship” (11-12).  Rather’s definition suggests a valuable approach for us to take with any human-constructed structure or system, as well as with those humans within it – individual error and corruption mean that we will always have mistakes to overcome and less noble impulses to curb. In evaluating the values that he sees as essential to the good of our nation, Rather reflects both Tocqueville’s recognition of human challenges in our system, as well as his optimism for its reform.

Among the five values that Rather suggests compose the central elements of patriotism, perhaps freedom is the most recognizable of our American experiment.   The appeals to rights and freedoms led colonists to declare independence, fight the revolution and create not one but two political systems – the first of which, the Articles of Confederation, was short-lived.  But ultimately, it is the importance of political freedom that is most essential to our system’s functioning.  Our country has been pushed to recognize the importance of all citizens being able have voice in our system and yet, we still lag behind most comparable systems in our voter turnout.  Not only do other nations make it easier for voters to participate, but we have seen measures over time designed to discourage or even prevent some Americans from voting. Rather highlights the grave concerns that such actions should hold for supporters of democracy noting, “[t]o suppress the vote is to make a mockery if democracy.  And those who do so are essentially acknowledging that their policies are unpopular” (31).  Beyond voting, our system of majority rule incorporates recognition of that they may not always have right on their side. The privilege of dissent, to “force all of us to question our dogmas and biases,” and the role of a free and independent press, to protect against “the corrupting effects of unfettered power on the discourse of democracy” through investigative journalism, are protected by the First Amendment (42, 53).  These elements allow our system to function more effectively, but Rather finds a dedication to freedom alone insufficient to define patriotism, as these freedoms exist within a shared social context.

The value of community as an element of patriotism reflects the fact that our work inherently obliges some collective work. Collaborating – or simply coexisting – with others requires a stance of inclusion, not only in recognizing individuals from marginalized groups have value and worth, but also voice (“Inclusion”).  Interacting with others who come from different life experiences means that we will not know their perspectives first hand, but from which we can learn – “[w]hen we live in a self-selected bubble of friends, neighbors, and colleagues, it is too easy to forget how important it is to try to walk in the shoes of others” (101).  The membership in our community continues to evolve from the earliest immigrants to those of the present day, further shifting our experiences of inclusion and empathy. Although the response to newcomers has not always been welcoming, Rather notes that America has been “a blended land of ever-increasing diversity that so far has proven the strength and wisdom of our great experiment” (120).  When we see the value of not only ourselves but others, we have the ability to leverage our multiple efforts for greater reward.

Rather situates his work with an epigraph from Tocqueville that captures the hope for our – or other – nations.  Within Tocqueville’s assessment on the functional governing of democracy, he noted that “[t]he Greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults” (Vol 1, Chapter VIII, Part III, par. 17.)  In this section of Democracy in America, as elsewhere in his tome, Tocqueville acknowledged that our chosen form of government has both areas of strength and weakness.  For him, the ability of democratic republics/ democracies to recognize their errors and make changes to law and structure was its saving grace. The people might not always, or even often, get it right but they have the ability to learn over time.  He questioned the ability for democracy to succeed in its foreign policy (Vol 1, Chapter VIII, Part III, “Conduct Of Foreign Affairs By The American Democracy”).  Yet the ingenuity of the framers’ design placed the primacy of external affairs in the hands of a single executive, limiting but not removing popular influence, and tempering executive power with checks by the legislature.  Despite some of the specific shortcomings of government based on the consent of the people, it offers greater opportunity than other systems.

Tocqueville valued the incorporation of various voices and a willingness to include them allow a nation to identify its errors and work to repair them.[1] Over the course of our nation’s history, constitutional, legal and social reforms have extended political rights to additional voices. The inclusion and empathy that Rather extols does not come without practice, which Tocqueville noted our political system affords us:

For in the United States it is believed, and with truth, that patriotism is a kind of devotion which is strengthened by ritual observance. In this manner the activity of the township is continually perceptible; it is daily manifested in the fulfilment of a duty or the exercise of a right, and a constant though gentle motion is thus kept up in society which animates without disturbing it (Tocqueville, Vol 1, Chapter V, Part I, “Public Spirit Of The Townships Of New England,” par. 3).

Our commitment to the well-being of our nation and its people, not simply its persistence, requires something of us in turn; it also requires that we practice with a recognition that many others also belong within our community.

As we move through the initial days of a new presidential administration, especially in the midst of the pandemic and other pressing issues, it might be easy to continue to draw lines and pick battles rather than see how we can strengthen each other and our collective actions.  Certainly, we should condemn activities that are harmful to our nation’s existence, but we should also be careful not to use assertions of patriotism as a means to discourage change that can lead to beneficial changes.  Rather’s examination of patriotism as conceived from freedom and community, as well as the values of exploration, responsibility and character, offers a nuanced and thought-provoking set of options.  Likewise, in the closing lines of her poem, Gorman reveals the opportunity before us:

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover and every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful. When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it (The Hill We Climb).

If we frame our sense of patriotism not in terms of whether individuals speak and act in ways that we accord, but as ways in which we can identify the ways in which our nation may improve, we are most likely to ensure our nation’s continuation for ourselves and our posterity.

[1] Although not relevant to the central elements of this post, readers should note that Chapter XIII includes discussion of the impact of colonization on Indian tribes that reflects Tocqueville’s lack of knowledge as to how these populations constructed their own civilizations, different as they were from those of the earlier European culture that shaped the formation of government.

(What is Civic Mind?  Read our welcome post for the series!)

(Note: The National Hockey League includes teams from the United States and Canada.  Canadian teams from the province of Quebec and their home facilities are known by the French versions of their name. The Buffalo Sabres, in their hometown abutting the US-Canadian border, also follow suit.)

The origin of the term partisanship provides insight into the way that this factor functions in our political system.  Despite being a political scientist studying political behavior for a couple of decades and a student of French since middle school, it was not until February 2, 2013 that I grasped the meaning of this term on a whole new level.  A hockey fan since my youth, I eagerly tuned in that day to watch the Buffalo Sabres play the Montreal Canadiens, a game that took place just a couple of weeks after the end of a months-long lockout that resulted in the cancellation of games until late January. As the teams faced off in the Bell Centre, I noticed additional wording at center ice: “Merci à nos partisans!” – “Thank you to our fans!” Partisan – fan, devotee, follower – certainly captures the essence of individuals following political groups and philosophies.  Ardent supporters can become quite heated on behalf of their teams, driven more by emotion and loyalty of shared identity, rather than critical analysis.

In the field of political science, we most often use party identification to measure partisanship within the public.  Party identification (referred to as PID), the extent to which individuals feel closer to one of the political parties, reflects a primarily affective (emotional) view.  As shown in this overview from the American National Elections Studies project, one of the most extended and reputable series examining political behavior in the United States, this characteristic reflects responses as to which party respondents think of themselves as “closer” (click “Notes” tab for question-wording).  Over time, PID has shifted among three primary groups: Democrats, Independents and Republicans, with Independents retaining a strong presence over time. Despite extensive analyses of alternate approaches to measuring PID, this general approach remains the most effective measure in our two-party system, based on its ability to more accurately capture the pulse of political behavior.  For the general public, partisanship has no doubt had some negative impacts on the political system, but it can also be harnessed constructively.

I find it helpful to consider partisan identity as a “lens” that not only impacts voting decisions but also shapes other political beliefs and attitudes.  Many models, including the pivotal Michigan voting model of the “funnel of causality” include PID as a factor with both direct and indirect effects.  Sixty years after the introduction of the model, the Change and Continuity series, published after each national election with in-depth analysis, reveals the persistent and multiple influences of PID on voting.  Not only are partisans more likely to vote for candidates running under that party label, but PID shapes evaluations of candidates, issues and events that also influence voting.  Part of the reason for this outcome is that party identification serves as a heuristic – or shortcut – in processing information.  Unfortunately, shortcuts do not allow for effective evaluation of complex situations, creating “teams” of political opponents that combat one another rather than consider options outside of their partisan defaults that might serve the greater good.

The public has responded with a sort of polarization that primarily reacts to changes among elected officials and party activists.  Despite the fact that the plurality of people in the United States range from center-right to center-left, the public is perceived as more politically polarized than their issue stances would suggest due to what scholar Morris Fiorina terms the “sorting” of party elites over the last two and a half decades. This shift, aided by the growing influence of social media, has culminated in a new variant – negative partisanship.  Identified by elections expert Alan Abramowitz, this shift has resulted primarily in the decline of opinion towards the opposing party even as attitudes towards one’s own party remained stable and, in 2016, dropped.  The votes in that election were cast against opposing parties/ candidates, rather than for the candidates that aligned with voters’ own parties. Does this team rivalry mentality prevent change that can return us to an effective government that deliberates and discerns actions based on the good of the whole rather than political biases?

Despite the current circumstances, some of which have been quite dire for the health of representative democracy, room for change exists.  The post-election challenges, despite the lack of legal evidence to merit them, culminated in violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.  Even in the face of reservations over this event by Republicans in the public, the impact of PID as a political lens is still evident as the country approaches the inauguration of the Biden administration. Yet, given the existence of negative partisanship, the majority of the public does not serve as a stable base for either party, which indicates that the voting landscape is ripe for realignment if leaders can tap into shared values.  According to the Carr Center, those common values do exist.  But promoting that change will require collaboration and empathy, with individuals and leaders who support the principles of representative democracy seeing beyond labels and stereotypes to the human beings within groups.  Another sports team analogy provides a suggestion as to how we as citizens can break the habit of overreacting to partisanship.

Ardent fans in Buffalo and Baltimore illustrated how it can be done following the January 16 American Football Conference (AFC) divisional playoff game between their teams.  During the second half of the game, quarterback Lamar Jackson left with a concussion and could not return.  The Buffalo Bills won the game, but the story did not end there, with one team jubilant and another bitter.  The Buffalo fan base (aka Bills Mafia) took a page out of its own playbook, researching causes that Jackson has supported, and kicked off a donation drive in his honor to the Louisville affiliate of Blessings in a Backpack.  Ravens fans motivated others in their flock to contribute as well.  Although the financial impact is inspirational – as of the completion of this post, over $290,000 had been raised in less than 48 hours – the fan to fan communication has also been incredible.  Fans connecting individually have been able to see beyond the stereotype of their sports rivals and support a common end regardless of wins and losses.  Hungry children are undoubtedly the winners.

(The nature and change in political behavior in the United States have many more layers of complexity, but this element serves as the focus for this post.  For a more detailed examination of the current and historical party systems, please read the segment on political parties in our sister series From the Field.)




(What is Civic Mind?  Read our welcome post for the series!)

In the 1994 midterm, the Republican Party won majorities in both houses of Congress with larger margins than most electoral models predicted.  The incoming majority had formed a united campaign front with its Contract with America, staking out clear stances from its Democratic opponents.  Yet, by the end of President Bill Clinton’s second term, one that included not only an impeachment but also an ahistorical gain in seats for his party during the subsequent midterm, the White House and Congress had amassed many policy accomplishments.  Divided government was not dysfunctional.

As of today, election officials have certified most of the 2020 ballots and, at least at the federal level, all but two run-off elections concluded.  Pending the outcome of those latter races, the United States may again face a measure of divided government.  Is that situation desirable? Explainable? Even though much of the deeper analysis of voting awaits the more detailed academic studies that can examine a whole host of factors that simpler horserace polls cannot, these results are not necessarily puzzling when taking in a longer-term context.  As parties and their elected officials have polarized in the last several decades, especially in comparison to the landscape of public opinion, divided government not only balance for the public, but also an indication that business as usual does not serve the larger American public.

Divided government is not necessarily a surprising outcome, either in current or past times.  In terms of party identification (PID), the public has tended to reflect more of a bell curve over the last several decades, with just small spikes favoring either major party.  In addition, these totals include those who respond as weak partisans; researchers Paul Hernnson and James Curry note that these individuals who sometimes turn out in lower numbers or may be more likely to defect to the opposing party when election contexts are less favorable.  As parties have polarized, voters other than strong partisans do not find these groups to be very representative of their beliefs (Table 1).  In fact, results in a November 2020 survey by Harvard/Harris reveals that a majority of voters want bipartisan control of Congress (30).  Thus, ticket-splitting may be motivated by a desire to curb the excesses of either party.

Despite the attention to congressional gridlock in recent years, though not without bipartisan successes such as the First Step Act, divided government has necessarily not been synonymous with unproductive outcomes.   Divided government has occurred regularly for a number of decades.  Congressional expert David Mayhew has found that, for a good portion of that time, divided government did not correlate with less productive policymaking.  Officials were able to rise above partisanship to the point that they could collaborate on key outcomes, but those outcomes were also due to the overlap across more moderate elements of the parties.

As parties have polarized over the last couple of decades, their electoral fortunes have been short-term in nature.  Since 1992, unified government has been the exception, rather than the rule, with each side holding that position for only 1 to 2 election cycles (Table 4).  As long as officials promote policies that relate to their bases, they risk the inability to grow sufficient support in the public in order to sustain power and make consistent policy.  The winning parties have tended to incorrectly view their wins as a mandate, ceding more independent supporters to the opposing party in subsequent elections.   Moreover, policy purists, rather than pragmatists, have engaged in significant overreach by promoting policies that do not have widespread support, which seems to perpetuate the political tumult come election time.

However, this cycle is not inevitable, if political leaders exercise courage in representing the larger American public.   Recent research by Harvard’s Carr Center has shown a number of areas of common ground among voters – with strong bipartisan support topping 90% for rights relating to personal data, voting, racial equality and affordable health care (Takeaway 2).  Students of public policy know well that agreement on policy goals do not automatically produce results on the methods by which they might be achieved.  But, with such overwhelming desire on the part of the public to address these issues, and the varieties of approaches, built on the results of which ones may or may not work well, a compromise that advances the interests of the American people is possible.

Critical to that compromise is the willingness of officials to examine viable solutions and to engage in honest dialogue.  To do so, members of Congress need to return to some fundamental values, chief among which is empathy.  Rather than seeing members of opposing parties as enemies, recognizing their humanity requires our ability to understand how individuals’ experiences shape their values.  As noted by actor Alan Alda, who has spent many years working in the field of communication, active listening has the potential to reframe our views.  In turn, we have the opportunity to develop empathy for others who think differently than we do.  In light of current political alignments within the public, empathy and collaboration are not only ethical necessities but practical ones.

If we wish to solve collective problems by implementing policies that can have longer-term – and likely more effective – outcomes, partisans need to reframe their approaches.  Democracy typically organizes around a principle of majority rule; in some cases, procedures – including some of those addressed in the Constitution – even require supermajorities.  Neither party has been able to generate a clear, convincing and, most importantly, sustainable majority.  Political scientist Robert Putnam offers insights on returning to the common good, based on examples from the past in his new book, co-authored with Shaylyn Romney Garrett, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again. More efforts, such as those of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have the opportunity to chart a different course.  The onus is on current leaders to chart a path that tackles commonly agreed-upon goals in ways that harness the strengths of competing perspectives.   In doing so, they will find themselves much more likely to generate support from the public, raising from approvals in the teens and 20s, and securing a broader and more stable set of bases.   In becoming more representative, they also stand the chance to adopt more effective policies that majorities of Americans can respect.

Zoe Smith is a senior with majors in Politics and Chinese Studies


Latin America has often been the focus of international attention, particularly in the eyes of the United States. As neighbors to the South, there has always been evolving foreign policy between the U.S. and Latin America. As we evaluate the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accords, the history of policy preceding and the outcome of the 1997 Peace Accords will come to light. The checkered past of the United States intervention in Latin America plays an important role in events leading up to the Peace Accord. Exploring this past leads to a new understanding of deep-seated conflicts in Guatemala, and the nature of the Peace Accords.


In 1944 Jacobo Arbenz was democratically elected as president following a coup staged to depose dictator Juan Fredrico Ponce Vaides. Jacobo Arbenz was well supported by the people, his popularity showing through his success through democratic means. Unfortunately, the United States had hawkish policy focused on Latin America and any seemingly leftist political movement. This was because of events on the international stage, namely the Cold War. Upon review, the nature of Guatemala was not communist or anywhere near such radical ideology. This did not prevent the Eisenhower Administration and Congress from supporting military leaders in a coup in Guatemala through the CIA.

The efforts of United States lead to the strengthening of elites and military leaders in Guatemala. Underneath these leaders, the normalcy of violence and suppression began. The Guatemalan government was particularly stringent with revolutionists, and their response to guerilla groups horrified the international community. A 36-year civil war between these guerilla groups and the Guatemalan government led to the mass murder of thousands of Guatemalans. Human rights protection decayed as the government targeted indigenous Mayans in the Mayan Highlands where many guerrilla groups hid.

The United States, despite their role previously supporting military leaders, also agreed it was time to return power to the citizenship. They also backed United Nations peacekeeping actions in Guatemala (so long as monetary aid translates as support). The government sponsored genocide of Guatemalan citizens eventually led to the 1996 Peace Accord which was introduced and supported by the United Nations.

The 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accord

After 36 years of violence, the 1996 Guatemalan Peace Accord was established with the signing of a cease fire agreement between the Guatemalan government and URNG in 19. The URNG (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca) was a leading group in the revolution against the government. Like many guerilla groups during this period, they established themselves in the Mayan Highlands and intertwined their struggle against the government with the historical trials of the indigenous Mayan people. Acknowledging their disadvantages, URNG took advantage of the opportunity to achieve political change through peace talks. The Guatemalan government was brought to the table through international influence and potential loss of foreign aid.

After this cease fire occurred, the United Nations began to gather information on the conflict and those affected. The Peace Accord promoted the use of various organizations to establish accountability for human rights violations, provide historical accounts, and verify the truth behind events that were considerably damaging for indigenous peoples and other communities. REHMI, organized by the Catholic Church, gathered 5,000 testimonies representing 25,000 victims… RHEMI has also identified more than 300 mass graves across the country, which the army had previously kept hidden.” (Wilson, 1997) These investigations were the culminations of efforts to provide future accountability for human rights protection and change the status quo of hidden government violence.

As investigations continued, the conversation around government reform progressed. The 1996 Peace Accord consists of a few necessary agreements, such as the ceasefire in 1996, and an exhaustive list of government reforms to be carried out. These reforms and agreements came about through discussions with various non-government organizations, URNG, and the Guatemalan government. The Peace Accord established provided a plan of reforms on human rights, the judicial system, economical development, military power, and various government structures.. This study of the 1996 Peace Accord provides insight on the nature of peace talks and the scope of the effort in Guatemala.

Though the efforts to provide future reform for Guatemala were considerable, the Peace Accord had fundamental imperfections that would dampen the effect of this policy. A core issue with the Peace Accord is that it failed to empower citizens, which in turn left them without the ability to hold the government accountable for reforms. There were some notable efforts on part of the Peace Accord, such as the Assembly of Civil Society. The Assembly of Civil Society attempted to represent all civil sectors, however, like other programs that were meant to give a voice to the citizens in these peace talks, it was ineffective. The Assembly was never truly representative of the people and failed to have lasting impact once implementation began.

Another failure of the Peace Accord was its inability to prioritize key issues for reform and implement timely solutions. This failure was due to the sheer scope of the policy and the lack of vision for government restructuring on the part of the administration. Peace talk solutions that address historical, systemic issues are more likely to have lasting impact, however, simple, practical solutions are more likely to be implemented. Had the Peace Accord prioritized human rights protection and gave clear instruction on how to restructure government institution to suit these priorities, it may have worked.

While there is much to be said in terms of what could be improved on, the 1996 Peace Accord did have a positive impact in Guatemala. Despite large adversity from the Guatemalan government and elites, or even the URNG at times, the Peace Accord brought forth a cease-fire after 36-years of violence. Furthermore, the revolutionists who disarmed were reintegrated into society and the violence of 36-years acknowledged.  The Truth Commission, which gathered data in subsequent years on the nature and sources of violence, provided a stark account of government activities.  The lack of implementation of reforms has meant a continued abuse of human rights and government power, however, the 1996 Peace Accord exhibits the potential of peace keeping policy if executed effectively. For this reason, policy such as this must be studied and understood to bring about lasting impact in the future.