How a Democracy Dies

We tend to think of democracies dying at the hands of men with guns. During the Cold War, coups d’etat accounted for nearly three out of every four democratic breakdowns. …

By and large, however, overt dictatorships have disappeared across much of the world. Violent seizures of power are rare. But there’s another way to break a democracy: not at the hands of generals, but of elected leaders who subvert the very process that brought them to power. … In these cases, there are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance. This is how most democracies die today: slowly, in barely visible steps.

How vulnerable is American democracy to such a fate? CONT.

Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt (Harvard), New Republic