While many Americans despair of the current state of U.S. politics, most assume that our system of government and democracy itself are invulnerable to decay. Yet when we examine the past, we find that to the contrary, the United States has undergone repeated crises of democracy, from the earliest days of the republic to the present. In this talk, Suzanne Mettler identifies four distinct characteristics of democratic disruption over time. Political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power – alone or in combination – have threatened the survival of the republic historically, but it has survived, so far. What is unique, and alarming, about the present moment is that all four conditions are present in American politics today.
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