The John Adams is happy to announce that Daniel Ziblatt, the Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard University, is coming to Amsterdam to discuss his book (co-written with Steven Levitsky): 'How Democracies Die'. The book is a detailed and concise account of various democratic governments that have collapsed in relatively recent history, and how they compare to the state of the US government and its political systems and leaders today. Is our democracy in danger? Ziblatt believes the answer is 'yes'.
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In this “brilliant, wise and nuanced book,” according to Nicholas Kristoff in The New York Times, Ziblatt warns us for politicians who reject, in words or action, the democratic rules of the game; who deny the legitimacy of opponents; who tolerate or encourage violence; and who indicate a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of opponents, including the media. It is a sober alarm about the precarious state of American democracy today.
Democracies have functioned well in the United States over the years because of the application of checks and balances in the form of “mutual toleration,” the notion that “competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals” and “forbearance,” the idea that “politicians should exercise restraint in deploying their institutional prerogatives.” Both these norms have been seriously undermined, and even abandoned entirely, over the past thirty years. The result is that democracies don’t die at the hands of generals but of elected leaders—presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power.
Ziblatt’s most important recommendation is to unite in a coalition: building a coalition is critical because it will teach the norms of forbearance and mutual toleration by bringing together people who may have diverse and opposing ideological views in support of specific values and goals that they all support.