How Democracies Die

I finished listening to How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt, using a combination of Kindle and Audible.

The book warns against the breakdown of “mutual toleration” and respect for the political legitimacy of the opposition. This toleration involves accepting the results of a free and fair election where the opposition has won, in contrast with advocacy for overthrow or spurious complaints about the election mechanism. The authors also assert the importance of respecting the opinions of those who come to legitimately different political opinions, in contrast to attacking the patriotism of any who disagree, or warning that if they come to power they will destroy the country.

The authors point out that the various branches of government in a system with separation of powers have actions available to them that could completely undermine the other branches or the opposition. The authors warn against ramming through a political agenda or accumulating power by playing “constitutional hardball” with tactics like court packing, stonewalling nominations, or abusing the power of the purse, and recommend “forbearance” and some degree of cooperation to keep government functioning in a balanced fashion. Other threats to democratic stability cited by the authors include economic inequality and segregation of the political parties by race, religion, and geography.

The authors dedicate many chapters to the study of the United States and the 2016 elections, but also apply their theory to Latin America or European countries. According to them, the United States has, until 2016, resisted the attempts to undermine democracy thanks to two norms: mutual toleration and forbearance, the latest defined as the intentional restraint of one’s power to respect the spirit of the law if not its letters.

They finally predict three potential scenarios for the post-Trump United States. Try Audible and get the book free . . .

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