Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: The Tyranny of the Minority with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Tyler McBrien, Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt, Jen Patja
Thursday, September 21, 2023, 8:00 AM
How did American democracy fall so far behind, and what can be done about it? 

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Democratic backsliding, a term that American political scientists usually use to describe the process by which other countries transition to autocracy, has come home. Freedom House’s Global Freedom Index, which attempts to track the health of democracies around the world, recently demoted the United States from a score of 90 in 2015 to 83 in 2021, lower than every established democracy in Western Europe. 

How did American democracy fall so far behind, and more importantly, what can we do about it? Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien spoke with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of the new book, Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point, to answer these questions about our ailing democracy. They discussed the diagnoses and prescriptions of this breaking point, the most damaging counter-majoritarian features of the U.S. constitution, and why constitutional and electoral reform is so damn difficult in the US—but not impossible. They also got into how the Republican Party went off the rails.  

Tyler McBrien is the managing editor of Lawfare. He previously worked as an editor with the Council on Foreign Relations and a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa, and holds an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.
Steven Levitsky is an American political scientist and Professor of Government at Harvard University.
Daniel Ziblatt is an American political scientist and a professor at Harvard University with a research focus on comparative politics, democracy and democratization as well as the politics and political history of Western Europe.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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