BOOKS - Trumpism that kills
Can America's democracy survive Donald Trump's presidency?
- Saturday, 02 February 2019
One of the most useful books for understanding the many uncertainties threatening American democracy is Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die, published at the beginning of 2018. The book about Trump’s America quickly became a bestseller. The two authors, both professors of political science at Harvard, provide a timely contribution with a journalistic tone to the issue of America’s endangered democracy. While I do not agree fully with the alarmism of the book’s dramatic title, readers will find useful the opinion of these experts concerning a phenomenon that is as new as it is surprising for the USA.
The heart of the book describes the strongman style of leadership, a distinguishing feature of Trump, and emphasises the often-ignored aspects that are essential for the functioning of a democracy. For example, according to Levitsky and Ziblatt, the system of checks and balances cannot function without what they call “forbearance”, which in this context does not mean tolerance but rather a type of self-control. They are referring to the sense of restraint and responsibility that should ideally be a feature of those who exercise power, who prefer to back off from their own role in order to respect the other institutions. This key factor, which we often simply call “good sense”, has been absent from the institutions of Washington for some time and it is sorely needed right now that the future of American democracy is so uncertain.
You will find this article in the eastwest paper magazine at newwstand.