Both Harvard professors, Levitsky and Ziblatt compare examples of democratic breakdowns all over the world. They then explore the reason behind the American democracy’s relative longevity before ending with a dissection of the Trump administration.
Some interesting points:
🥝 Democracy has been declining for decades: Trump is its phenomenon and accelerant, not the cause.
🥝 Political stances are more identity-based (especially on race and religion) than ideology-based now.
🥝American democracy has held in the past because of unofficial norms and gate-keeping (not nominating potential authoritarians as candidates), but now there’s an increasing inclination to sacrifice democratic norms for political gain.
Some questions I ended up asking myself:
🥝How much does democracy need to be sacrificed at certain stages (eg. gatekeeping) to maintain itself in the long run?
🥝 How does meritocracy affect democracy?
The reason I took off half a star:
🥝 As much as I admire President Obama, I feel like polarization has greatly increased during his time. I wish the book discusses what he could have done to prevent our current situation.
🥝 The book suggests that Trump’s inauguration has caused a democratic recession in many parts of the world... but I suspect that like with the erosion of American democracy, he’s an accelerant, not a cause?
Food for thought: how is this 2-party-eroding-democracy dynamic different from the Prisoner’s Dilemma? In the Dilemma, the prisoners’ distrust ruin each other’s chances. How are the two parties’ erosion of democratic norms for power any different?
This read is both informative and captivating. Highly recommended.
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