Professor Emeritus Steve Woolpert Talks About What Polarizes Democracy

(Courtesy of Steve Woolpert)
Professor Emeritus Steve Woolpert speaks March 3 at 10 a.m. at the First Friday Forum, held at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church. His topic is titled, “Healing a House Divided: Toxic Polarization Endangers Our Democracy.”

    Steve Woolpert, Professor Emeritus at Saint Mary’s College, speaks March 3 at 10 a.m., at the First Friday Forum “Healing a House Divided: Toxic Polarization Endangers Democracy.” The forum is at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, located at 49 Knox Drive, Lafayette, in the fellowship hall, with possible viewing via Zoom. Register at
    Woolpert will engage the audience in an exploration of the rise in negative partisanship, the erosion of democratic norms and the increasing support for political violence in this country.
    He will present his plans to launch a Center for Engaged Democracy at Saint Mary’s College. According to Woolpert, the Center will be dedicated to strengthening the foundational principles of American democracy by fostering respectful, authentic dialogue across partisan differences; promoting non-biased civic habits and competencies; building on Saint Mary’s College’s record of excellence in student voting and making common cause with outside organizations which contribute to the health of America’s democratic republic.
    Woolpert said, “America’s democratic institutions do not operate in a vacuum. They are nourished by deeply rooted democratic beliefs and practices. Recently, however, significant numbers of Americans have come to endorse values that jeopardize our democratic republic.
    Deepening partisan animosity has made it easier for Americans to demonize and stereotype one another and harder for them to share resources and power. In a recent survey of registered voters, 87% of respondents worried that the United States is becoming less of a democracy. In this talk I will explore not only how we got here, but more importantly, what we can do together to improve the health of our democracy.”
    Woolpert grew up in Washington, D.C. and studied history at Grinnell College. After receiving his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University in 1975, he joined the staff at the University of Maryland before moving to Saint Mary’s College in 1981. His 47-year teaching career specialized in the courts, constitution and environmental politics.
    He was honored as a Saint Mary’s College Professor of the Year and served 12 years as the Dean of Liberal Arts. He has published numerous articles in academic journals and provides political commentary for Bay Area print and broadcast media. Woolpert was named a distinguished alumnus of the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. last year.

Bobbie Dodson can be reached at

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