Polarization Can Kill Democracy
It’s axiomatic that political discourse in the U.S. is becoming more and more extreme. There’s even talk of a coup. In textbook coups, martial law is declared. The internet and phones go dead. The opposition is jailed or killed. This is how we think of authoritarian regimes beginning. Yet Steven Levitsky says, “Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders.” He lays out a four-part test for identifying authoritarian leaders: rejecting democratic institutions, denying the legitimacy of political opponents, tolerating or encouraging violence and curtailing civil liberties. He notes, “With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century. Donald Trump met all of them.” If we are not careful polarization can kill democracy.
Steven Levitsky is Professor of Government at Harvard. His research interests focus on Latin America and include political parties, authoritarianism and democratization, and weak and informal institutions. He is co-author of How Democracies Die.
Jeanette in NY –
The Levitsky program was priceless.
I never miss AR on WAMC. AR is the best.
You are helping me through this pandemic.
Gregory Sandoval –
I have seen the deterioration of the Republican Party and this country since becoming a voting adult under Reagan. He precipitated the slide into authoritarianism.
Roxie W. –
This is the best explanation I’ve heard of the big picture of what’s happening in the US right now.
Robert Cunningham –
It was thoughtful and both reassuring and terrifying. He gave an alternative explanation of the causes of trends that I was watching unfold. Its basic message of forbearance, and its previous roots is quite enlightening. I think we are at a crossroad and such conversations should be widely consumed but as a previous commenter has said, those that should hear this are likely to reject it out of hand. I will share it with all that will listen.
Ken Church (verified owner) –
Very clear, listenable, imminently informative.
S Rees –
L Bond – October 10, 2020
”As a Canadian, I was interested to hear someone explain why things are so bitter and divisive in the US. Too bad the people who NEED to read understand this (both sides of the spectrum) will probably reject it out of hand. He seems pretty balanced to me.”
I’d like to add: Too bad the people who NEED to read understand this (both sides of the spectrum) will probably reject paying to listen/read this.
This is unfortunate.
L Bond –
As a Canadian, I was interested to hear someone explain why things are so bitter and divisive in the US. Too bad the people who NEED to read understand this (both sides of the spectrum) will probably reject it out of hand. He seems pretty balanced to me.