How Democracies Die

How Democracies Die, By Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

New York Times Bestseller-“Comprehensive, enlightening, and terrifyingly timely.”-The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

How Democracies Die BookWinner of the Goldsmith Book Prize-Shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize-named one of the best books of the year (2018). The Washington Post-Time-Foreign Affairs-WBUR-Paste.

Trump’s Presidency-Raising Concerns About Our Democracy

Donald Trump’s presidency has raised questions that many of us never thought we’d be asking. Is our democracy in danger?

Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang-in a revolution or military coup-but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms.

The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, by electing Trump, we have already passed the first one.

About The Authors-Ziblatt And Levitsky

Ziblett and Levitsky
Ziblatt and Levitsky

Steven Levitsky, and Daniel Ziblatt are professors of government at Harvard University. Levitsky’s research focuses on Latin America and the developing world. He is the author of Competitive Authoritarianism and is the recipient of numerous teaching awards.

Ziblatt studies Europe from the nineteenth century to the present. He is the author, most recently, of Conservative Parties And The Birth Of Democracy. Both Levitsky and Ziblatt have written for VOX and The New York Times, among other publications.

Looking To History, To Defend Our Democracy

The authors of this book, How Democracies Die, try to take a wider view. For them the great harbinger of disaster happened during the final year of the Obama presidency.

Following the sudden death of the conservative Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia in early 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a centrist liberal, to replace him.

It was up to the Senate to decide whether to confirm the president’s choice. But the senate did something it had never done in more than 150 years: It refused even to grant Garland a hearing.

Loudest Republicans
Republican Senate

This was about the Republican controlled senate’s view, that any Republican Supreme Court nominee would be better than any Democratic nominee, and any price was worth paying to achieve that. Even backing Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president.

Through the author’s writings, research and beliefs, this was a permanent example of erosion of norms, which they consider the greater threat to contemporary democracy.

In refusing to do what all their predecessors had done, however reluctantly, the Senate Class of 2016 did not break the law. It was not a coup, but it was a refusal to play by the unwritten rules of the game-and to heck with the consequences.

Donald Trump’s Ascent-Republican Party’s Failings

The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules.

The authors write: “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization-one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.”.Authoritarian Ruler

Comparisons that are drawn to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs highlighted in this book, that the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, as well as Trump’s demonetization of political opponents, minorities and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, the authors suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,”. though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

Democracies Don’t Just Die, People Kill Them

Levitsky and Ziblatt call Trump a “serial norm breaker”-however to blame him for all of what ails the U.S. democracy, he is just one of the many who have changed the traditions of our national political fabric.

Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are well-documented, from his call to root out rivals in the FBI and the so-called “Deep State” to his insistence that the Justice Department is his personal prosecutorial force.

Venezuela’s Authoritarian Government

Hugo Chavez
President Hugo Chavez

In Venezuela, former Army Colonol Hugo Chavez used his support among the country’s lower classes to propel himself into the presidency with huge legislative majorities. He used his advantage to strip away the opposition’s ability to fight back, and with each step, Chavez eroded what remained of Venezuela’s wobbly democratic traditions.

Now, Venezuela is a total mess, an authoritarian state unable to feed its own people.

In Conclusion

Drawing on decades of research and wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die-and how ours can be saved.

“Where Levitsky and Ziblatt make their mark is in weaving together political science and historical analysis of both domestic and international democratic crises; in doing so, they expand the conversation beyond Trump and before him, to other countries and to the deep structure of American democracy and politics.”.-Ezra Klein, VOX

“If you only read one book for the rest of the year, read How Democracies Die…This is not a book for just Democrats or Republicans. It is a book for all Americans. It is nonpartisan. It is fact based. It is deeply rooted in history…The best commentary on our politics no contest.”.-Michael Morrell, former Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. (via twitter)

If you have any questions or want to leave a comment, please do below and I will get back with you as soon as I can.

How Democracies Die BookIf you would like to purchase this eBook, please do Here: How Democracies Die, By Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

All The Best,



2 thoughts on “How Democracies Die”

  1. Hi. I came across this article while searching for something different to read. I am not American and I certainly am not big in following political news but I will certainly look into getting the book. Venezuela is such a mess…This is very interesting and worth checking out. Thank you for sharing. 

    1. Thank you for your comment, great book for not only U.S. citizens, but the world as a whole and how authoritarian governments, don’t fair well in the world we know today. Freedom is my biggest gift as well as my biggest fear, because if I lose that freedom that I have had since birth, what else is there. At least this is true for me. Thanks again and I hope you do get this eBook, and I know you will learn a lot about governments world wide.

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