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Reviews for Tyranny Of The Minority

by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

The authors, whose previous book was How Democracies Die (2018), trace how democracies throughout history have been undermined and how presently an angry, Populist and isolationist authoritarian movement threatens the United States. During the Trump presidency the MAGA movement began clawing at democratic norms, instigating a backlash against the country's movement toward a multiracial society and thus threatening much of its racial progress since the Voting Rights Act of 1964. This timely book ask the question, What can we do to save it? Levitsky and Ziblatt (both, Harvard Univ.) compare the state of democracy in numerous countries that don't have the systemic weaknesses currently threatening the democratic form of US government. Among the reforms needed to correct a system of government in which a political minority can override the electoral will of the majority include easier voting, the end to gerrymandering, the replacement of the electoral college with a direct popular vote, the elimination of the Senate filibuster, the end to lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court, and a greater ability to amend the Constitution. The authors conclude by arguing that "these changes would be simply to catch us up to the rest of the world." Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. --Jack Robert Fischel, emeritus, Millersville University

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Chilling study of how recent political turmoil demonstrates that, “far from checking authoritarian power, our institutions have begun to augment it.” “The assault on American democracy was worse than anything we anticipated in 2017, when we were writing our first book, How Democracies Die.” So write Levitsky and Ziblatt, both professors of government at Harvard. While the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol provides a clear flashpoint, the authors weave a complex discussion, illuminating fault lines in the delicate nature of democracy that the Trump presidency (and its enablers) blatantly exploited. “The republic did not collapse between 2016 and 2021,” they write, “but it became undeniably less democratic.” The authors bolster their wide-ranging narrative with geopolitical and historical examples and informed analyses of the intricate mechanisms of governance. “Most twenty-first-century autocracies are built via constitutional hardball,” they write. “Democratic backsliding occurs gradually.” Compromised politicians propel it by amplifying the dangerous ideas of extremists. Levitsky and Ziblatt emphasize that democracies must become multiracial to survive, explaining America’s fitful progress since Reconstruction. “Without federal protection of voting rights,” they write, “any semblance of democracy in the South was soon extinguished…the South succumbed to nearly a century of authoritarianism.” In the 1960s, civil rights legislation “establish[ed] a legal foundation for multiracial democracy,” which Republicans largely supported. Now, the same party embraces racial grievances and electoral lies and endorses violence, demonstrated in the aftermath of Jan. 6: “Most Republican leaders acted as semi-loyal democrats. They professed to play by democratic rules but in reality enabled authoritarian behavior.” The authors conclude by advocating for potential reforms, including prosecution of antidemocratic forces and promotion of voting rights. They also urge optimism even as they gloomily warn that “the mapping of the partisan divide onto the urban-rural divide risks converting some of our most important institutions into pillars of minority rule.” A well-organized and convincing argument, although procedural minutiae occasionally dilute otherwise passionate writing. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.