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What Can Recent American History Tell Us About the Future of Democracy? Luke Mogelson

Festival of Ideas

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Luke Mogelson, the New Yorker's award-winning war correspondent, returns to the US to explore mounting civic breakdown and violent disorder following the invasion of the Capitol and the wider lessons for us all.

In early 2020, Luke Mogelson, who had been living in France and covering the Global War on Terrorism, returned home to report on the social discord that the pandemic was bringing to the fore in the US. Soon, he found himself embedded with militias descending on the Michigan state capitol. From there, the story swept him on to Minneapolis, then to Portland, and ultimately to Washington DC. 

His stories for The New Yorker were hailed as essential first drafts of history. They were just the tip of the iceberg. His book, The Storm Is Here: America On the Brink offers an eyewitness account of how – during a season of sickness, economic uncertainty, and violence – a large segment of Americans became convinced that they needed to revolt against dark forces plotting to take their country away from them, and then did just that. Mogelson follows them, from the onset of the pandemic to the attack on the US Capitol – during which he was in the Senate chamber with the insurrectionists – and its aftermath. 

In this discussion with Bristol Ideas’ Andrew Kelly, Mogelson talks about what he learned from reporting on civil wars; the pandemic and the culture wars in the US; conspiracy theories, lizards, racism and antisemitism; the organisations and individuals involved in the invasion of the Capitol Building; and the lessons for the future of democracy in the US and elsewhere. 

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Luke Mogelson’s The Storm is Here: America on the Brink is published by Quercus. Buy a copy now from If you buy books linked to our site, we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

Luke Mogelson has written for The New Yorker since 2013, covering the wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. During the pandemic, he reported on the social tumult in the U.S., including the uprising in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd and the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Previously, Mogelson was a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, based in Kabul. He has won the National Magazine Award and the George Polk Award. He is the author of The Storm is Here: America On the Brink.

Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly is Director, Bristol Ideas. He is a visiting professor at the University of the West of England and has written or edited 20 books on subjects ranging from film and cinema to aviation and Bristol’s rich cultural history.

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