Reviews for Tyranny Of The Minority

by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

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.