The narrative presented in “Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point,” by Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, challenges the conventional portrayal of the Founding Fathers as political visionaries who crafted an enduring democratic system. Instead, the authors argue that the framers, while progressive for their time, unwittingly birthed a system that could pave the way for a “tyranny of the minority” in the United States.
The book draws chilling parallels between historical events, such as the 1934 insurrection in France, and the January 6,2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The authors warn that the lack of accountability for past assaults on democratic institutions can weaken a nation’s democratic fabric, as evidenced by the decline of French democracy within six years of a similar event.
“Armed right-wing militia and a mob of enraged demonstrators stormed the building where lawmakers had gathered to vote on a new government. The insurrectionists tried to break through the doors to the building where lawmakers met, but riot police stopped them at the barricades. As both sides battled one another on that chilly winter day, frightened lawmakers fled their chambers as the mob called for their hanging. Many people were injured, and some killed.”
As noted by CNN, the authors are talking about the insurrection of February 6, 1934 — an infamous day when thousands of fascists and militia members tried to topple a democratically elected government in France.
The French government survived that attack, but the political battle that followed proved to be more consequential. A committee was formed to investigate the insurrection, but right-leaning politicians rejected its findings and constructed an alternative narrative that cast the insurrectionists as victims of overzealous police and true patriots. No one was really held accountable, and politicians who encouraged or justified the insurrection that day remained in power.
“In the absence of accountability for the events of February 6, French democracy was badly weakened. Within six years, it would be dead,” the authors write.
Levitsky and Ziblatt specifically call out a group of contemporary politicians as “semi-loyal” to democracy—individuals who, despite publicly criticizing authoritarian figures like Donald Trump, secretly support them for political expediency. their critique was exemplified by a former Republican governor’s willingness to vote for Trump, despite calling him “crazy,” simply to ensure a party victory.
The book delves into the implications of demographic shifts in the U.S. and emphasizes the need for democratic reforms to prevent the rise of non-democratic means to maintain power. The authors argue that historical biases, including racial resentment, play a significant role in contemporary political dynamics, with white racial resentment being a key factor in the rise of figures like Donald Trump.
They argue that the MAGA movement, encapsulated by figures like Donald Trump, represents a last-ditch effort to preserve a fading status quo in the face of a shifting racial landscape.
The authors assert that understanding the racial dynamics at play is crucial for comprehending the roots of Trump’s appeal. They contend that the MAGA movement isn’t merely a response to economic anxieties or political discontent; rather, it is a reaction against a perceived loss of racial dominance.
In dissecting the racial undercurrents of the MAGA movement, “Tyranny of the Minority” goes beyond conventional analyses, urging readers to confront the uncomfortable truth that racial resentment is a linchpin in shaping contemporary political dynamics. By placing race at the forefront of their argument, Levitsky and Ziblatt prompt a reevaluation of the motivations behind the MAGA movement and its implications for the future of American democracy.
Addressing concerns about Trump’s potential authoritarianism, the authors contend that his campaign exhibits unprecedented openness to authoritarian practices, surpassing even leaders like Hugo Chavez, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Viktor Orban, and Vladimir Putin. The book underscores the importance of holding individuals accountable for attacks on democratic institutions both legally and politically, as the failure to do so poses a serious threat to democracy.
In conclusion, “Tyranny of the Minority” advocates for constitutional and political reforms, challenging the conventional narrative surrounding the Founding Fathers and urging society to confront and address the factors eroding democratic principles in the present day.