We are honored to host a special conversation with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of the new book Tyranny of the Minority (the follow-up to the bestselling How Democracies Die) and Protect Democracy Executive Director, Ian Bassin. They will attempt to make sense of how American democracy eroded so fast.
Levitsky and Ziblatt put forth the argument that the American political system incorporates counter-majoritarian elements designed to prevent the unchecked dominance of the current majority and to provide mechanisms for safeguarding the interests and rights of political minorities. These mechanisms encompass the Electoral College in presidential elections, the Senate’s uneven representation of smaller states, its filibuster rule, and the Supreme Court’s role in judicial review, along with the lifetime appointments of its judges. However, it is worth noting that the apprehension regarding the “tyranny of the majority” has been taken to an extreme, as the tyranny of the minority has become a palpable reality.
In the discussion they will explore the historical rationale behind the inclusion of counter-majoritarian features within U.S. institutions. Additionally, the conversation will delve into how this minority influence has grown so substantially and why it is essential to consider both short-term solutions and long-term reforms to mitigate this phenomenon and ensure a more balanced democratic system.
Steven Levitsky is David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is also Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard. His research focuses on democratization and and authoritarianism, political parties, and weak and informal institutions, with a focus on in Latin America.
Daniel Ziblatt is Eaton Professor of Government at Harvard University and director of the Transformations of Democracy group at Berlin’s Social Science Center ( WZB Berlin Social Science Center ). He specializes in the study of European politics, democracy, state-building, and historical political economy.
Ian Bassin is co-founder and Executive Director of Protect Democracy. He previously served as Associate White House Counsel. His responsibilities included ensuring that White House and executive branch officials complied with the laws, rules and norms that protect the fundamentally democratic nature of our government. He is a recipient of a 2023 MacArthur Fellowship, the Skoll Award for Social Innovation.
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