Thursday, January 18, 2018

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are the authors of How Democracies Die. From their Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Isaac Chotiner: Was there some aspect of Trump’s campaign, or the early months of his presidency, that made you want to write this book?

Daniel Ziblatt: That’s really the period in which we decided to write the book, during the campaign. We kind of had this eerie feeling we had seen this movie before, with accusations that Hillary is treasonous, or aggressive violence, or later on in the campaign this ambiguity of whether or not he’d accept the results of the election, and this was stuff we had seen before in the political systems that we studied. We could draw on our knowledge of other countries and other places and times to try to understand what was happening.

Steven Levitsky: Those are three things, I think it is fair to say, we never expected to see in a U.S. presidential election.

What historical examples about those three things led you to then write a book called How Democracies Die?

Ziblatt: I studied Spain in the 1930s before the Spanish Civil War erupted. The two main political factions on the right and the left both regarded each other as enemies of the state. In speeches the left would say the groups on the right were really fascist and wanted to undermine the state and those on the right said the same thing about the left. This kind of spiraling rhetoric preceded the Democratic breakdown in Spain. Similar kind of thing in Germany in the late 1920s.

As you researched the book, did you get more or less concerned about what you were seeing in the U.S.?

Levitsky: I think more concerned about some things and less concerned about other things. I’ll give you one example. I am, even relative to when we wrote the book, shocked and surprised by the degree to which the Republican Party is willing to go along with Trump’s shenanigans. We had...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue