Those of us brought up to respect rational problem solving, see how polarization and resulting extremism has eroded US democracy. This deterioration preceded Trump, but Trump’s lack of respect for democratic norms of behavior has accelerated the risks to our democratic institutions.
To better understand the risks, this book, “How Democracies Die”, by Harvard experts Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, is a great guide. They provide a guide to how democracies around the world have been subverted within recent decades, without military coups, by democratically elected authoritarian leaders.
In example after example, they show how violations of democratic norms, without violations of laws, damage democratic guardrails such as a free press and an independent judiciary. Once those guardrails are damaged, those responsible are better able to revise laws and institutions to maim or kill democracy in their countries.
After providing international examples of how democracies were subverted (Chavez in Venezuela, Orban in Hungary, Fujimora in Peru and others), the authors examine “guardrails of democracy” in the US, explain how some of these have already deteriorated prior to Trump, and then explain how Trump’s authoritarian actions pose an unprecedented threat to remaining guardrails. The erosion of these guardrails, which started in the 1970’s with (ironically) reforms to the party primary systems and resulted in the polarization of both parties, accelerated in the 1990’s. Trump accelerates the erosion through his attacks on basic democratic norms, as explained below. [Read more…] about US Democracy is at Risk – A Review of “How Democracies Die”