‘Tyranny of the Minority’ writers say Constitution not strong enough to protect democracy
[It’s not like we haven’t heard this before from Rachel Maddow, Professor Timothy Snyder and the “liberal” media. The significance here is the boldness of PBS News Hour to broadcast truth to the general public. If you don’t have time for the excellent 7 minute interview, see below the video for my summary of the two Harvard government professors’ main points and recommendations. – BenIndy Contributor Roger Straw]
>> America’s democracy is in an uncharted and fragile place, according to two Harvard government professors. In their new book, “Tyranny of the Minority,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt say politicians are welcoming anti-democratic extremists into their party ranks and part of the problem lies in the Constitution. Laura Barrón-López spoke with the writers about how the country got to this point.
Introduction and thesis
Laura Barron-Lopez: One of America’s two major political parties has turned away from democracy, warn Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. One key accomplice to the backsliding, they say, are politicians called semi-loyalists, who rather than expel anti-democratic extremists from their party ranks, accept and make room for them. Why is this happening? Their new book, “Tyranny of the minority,” concludes that part of the problem lies in the constitution. They joined me now. Thank you so much for joining. Steve, can you first establish we knew, as someone as an expert in the collapse of democracies, diagnosed that there is now a popular authoritarian movement within the Republican party?
To be a party committed to democracy, you have to do three simple things:
- First, you have to accept election losses win or lose.
- Number two, you have to not use violence to gain or hold onto power.
- And three, most critically in some sense, for mainstream political parties, you have to distance yourself and be explicit and open about condemning anybody who’s an ally of your party that commits any of those first two types of acts.
Over the past four years, we have seen a decay of that in the Republican party, including among mainstream members of the senate. This is a violation of that third principle, people who knew what was happening on January 6 and did very little to stop it.
What can be done?
Laura: Daniel, your book warns that the constitution, the world’s oldest written constitution, is part of the problem, is part of what is imperiling democracy. What changes do you think need to be made?
Daniel: Some of the things we discussed in the book, we have a 15 point set of suggestions in our last chapter, including
- Eliminating the electoral college. We are the only democracy in the world with the electoral college,
- Introducing term limits and retirement ages for the supreme court — we are the only democracy in the developed world that does not have term limits for judges.
- We also have proposals that do not require constitutional reform, like eliminating or weakening the filibuster. We are the only democracy in the world that has such a strong tool of obstruction in our chambers of congress. This often blocks majority supported policies, gun-control, efforts to address climate
change, minimum-wage. Things get held up in the national congress which frustrates citizens.
Regaining faith in the political system
These things could have a sweeping reform agenda. We have discovered that when constitutional reforms come, they tend to cluster together. People regain faith in their political system. This is part of the American tradition, whereas today we are operating outside the American tradition. This is something we need to get back to.