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