Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A call to reform our antiquated political institutions before it’s too late—from the authors of How Democracies Die
America is undergoing a massive experiment: It is moving, in fits and starts, toward a multiracial democracy, something few societies have ever done. But the prospect of change has sparked an authoritarian backlash that threatens the very foundations of our political system. Why is democracy under assault here, and not in other wealthy, diversifying nations? And what can we do to save it?
With the clarity and brilliance that made their first book, How Democracies Die, a global bestseller, Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt offer a coherent framework for understanding these volatile times. They draw on a wealth of examples—from 1930s France to present-day Thailand—to explain why and how political parties turn against democracy. They then show how our Constitution makes us uniquely vulnerable to attacks from within: It is a pernicious enabler of minority rule, allowing partisan minorities to consistently thwart and even rule over popular majorities. Most modern democracies—from Germany and Sweden to Argentina and New Zealand—have eliminated outdated institutions like elite upper chambers, indirect elections, and lifetime tenure for judges. The United States lags dangerously behind.
In this revelatory book, Levitsky and Ziblatt issue an urgent call to reform our politics. It’s a daunting task, but we have remade our country before—most notably, after the Civil War and during the Progressive Era. And now we are at a crossroads: America will either become a multiracial democracy or cease to be a democracy at all.
Praise for Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point
“An exceptionally persuasive book . . . Ziblatt and Levitsky are two of America’s very best comparative political scientists, with expertise that makes them uniquely well-equipped for the subject they’re examining. . . . Tyranny of the Minority is one of the best guides out there to the crisis of American democracy.”—Vox
“Old democracies tend to last, and so do rich democracies, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point out in this searing, unsettling, and essential new book, but American democracy, which is both old and rich, is dying. In Tyranny of the Minority, they explain why, and they explain, too, how to save it.”—Jill Lepore, author of These Truths
“Among rich democracies, America is uniquely vulnerable to authoritarianism. If that statement surprises you, it shouldn’t. In their new book, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt explain why this is true and how we can fix it: To stop democratic decay, we need to embrace our own tradition of constitutional reform. Just like their previous work, this book is concise, readable, and convincing.”—Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy
“Extending the brilliant analysis of their runaway bestseller, How Democracies Die, the authors vividly analyze the facets of America’s democracy, some of them hardwired into our constitutional design and others baked into our history, that make our political system uniquely vulnerable to unrepresentative rule by the few over the many. To their credit, they offer no easy solutions, but Levitsky and Ziblatt challenge us to use our voices and our votes to push back against these inherently antidemocratic features of our endangered republic.”—Laurence H. Tribe, University Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus, Harvard
“Levitsky and Ziblatt explain why we Americans are still in the fight of our lives. The smaller of our two major parties has traveled down the road of authoritarianism—rejecting fair election outcomes, casually accepting rightwing violence, and embracing extremist political figures. But our antiquated political institutions and practices entrench the power of this extremist minority and keep the pro-democratic American majority from governing. This eye-opening study, filled with analysis of analogous historical moments from around the world, is an essential primer in the struggle for democracy this century.”—Rep. Jamie Raskin, author of Unthinkable
“[A] chilling study of how recent political turmoil demonstrates that, ‘far from checking authoritarian power, our institutions have begun to augment it.’ . . . The authors bolster their wide-ranging narrative with geopolitical and historical examples and informed analyses of the intricate mechanisms of governance. . . . A well-organized and convincing argument.”—Kirkus Reviews