In their book How Democracies Die: What History Tells Us about Our Future (Books, 8 March), Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt offer some possibly useful critical analysis, but I am shocked by their apparent lack of a historical and intellectual handle on the forces behind those events leading to collapses of democracies – especially in the western hemisphere. In Chile, for example, democracy did not die as such – it was killed in an organised and well-financed, if not desperate, manner by a faction of the military, many of whom had close ties with the US.
In the book’s index, there is under “Brazil” no mention of US assistance in the 1964 military coup there. Also absent is the name of Oliver North, a former National Security aide who was at the heart of the Iran-Contra affair.
I would say that the rather consistent pressure from both major US political parties and their views on electoral practice has left much of the nation unmoved to vote, seeing that virtually any and all “third party” voices are systematically silenced or eliminated. And that’s not even to mention electoral practices such as gerrymandering that have dulled and reduced democracy in this nation for a long time, here little noted.
For these and other reasons, I feel that Levitsky and Ziblatt really only touch on the questions involved in our acceptance of democracy’s demise in the US, and seem not even to notice the many major well-organised internal efforts to smother democracy here.