How Democracies Die


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Feb 09 2018 38 mins   4
I might not have a more important political conversation this year than the one I just had with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. You’ll be tempted to look at the title of their book How Democracies Die and – particularly if you sit on the left side of things – think that it’s purely about President Trump. It’s not. Yes, of course, it covers Trump. Specifically, by looking at authoritarians across continents and throughout history, the authors outline four key indicators of Authoritarian Behavior. And, many of you may not be surprised – they find that candidate and President Trump has infringed on all four. But what you’ll also see – more clearly and ominously – is what we might call the Great Softening. What you’ll see is that the weakening of our democracy began long before Donald Trump came down his Trump Tower escalator in 2015 and announced his candidacy.Quite simply, this book will change the way you look at the last 40 years, daily events, our country, and even democracy itself. If you love democracy, you will love this book.Some background: Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are Professors of Government at Harvard. Levitsky’s research interests include political parties, authoritarianism and democratization, and weak and informal institutions, with a focus on Latin America. Ziblatt’s interests include democratization, state-building, comparative politics, and historical political economy. His focus is on European political development. Together they’ve spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies around the globe – places like Germany, Italy, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, among others. Now, as you’ll hear, much to their own surprise, our country has become their laboratory. I should add that if you love democracy, this book also might worry you. While the authors make clear that American institutions are incredibly strong – and, indeed, to date they have held up – you’ll also see how things can change and how they can go south. Our days for taking democracy for granted are gone.