Apparently Political Scientists are Scared


A collection of America’s top political scientists gathered at Yale University this past October to ask a very poignant question: "Is American democracy in decline?" Sean Illing, retired politics & philosophy professor, Air Force veteran, and interviews writer for Vox sat in on several lectures and produced a fascinating article for You can read the full article through the link below, but I wanted to share a few of the "hot takes" quoted in his article...

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard University, summed it up well: “If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast.”

Nancy Bermeo, a politics professor at Princeton and Harvard, began her talk with a jarring reminder: Democracies don’t merely collapse, as that “implies a process devoid of will.” Democracies die because of deliberate decisions made by human beings.

Adam Przeworski, a democratic theorist at New York University, suggested that democratic erosion in America begins with a breakdown in what he calls the “class compromise.”

Daniel Ziblatt, a politics professor at Harvard, identified what he calls two “master norms.” The first is mutual toleration — whether we “accept the basic legitimacy of our opponents.” The second is institutional forbearance — whether politicians responsibly wield the power of the institutions they’re elected to control.

Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and politics at Duke University, argued that the real danger we face isn’t that we no longer trust the government but that we no longer trust each other.

Timothy Snyder, a Yale historian, talked about time as a kind of political construct. His thesis was that you can tell a lot about the health of a democracy based on how its leaders — and citizens — orient themselves in time.

Read Sean Illing's artcle here:

But what do you think? Is the current political climate fertile ground for alarmists? Or do we have to consider the possibility that democracy is not as unassailable as many believe?

Comments (3)
No. 1-3

Worrisome trends, indeed. Agree with the substance of both the comments above. As bad as Trump is, he is arguably a gross anomaly. What frightens me is that his lack of respect for the rule of law and basic civility has largely been acquiesced to by many members of his own party who, with few exceptions, have failed to stand up to him.


It’s definitely fertile ground for alarmists and for good reasons. Even with the painful realities of our political environment and the dismal projections in the article, I believe in people, are our ability to build community and relationships. By doing this, we bring more of our humanity into the equation, which will help repair our democratic deterioration. Connecting, building relationships, and caring for each other - that’s key. We need to teach and practice what it means to be civically engaged and lately there seems to be a great surge of folks working to make sure this happens.


Without having read the Vox article, I'd say the decline in respect for rule of law is the most dangerous trend. The decline in rule of law has been taking place for a long time, but arguably the most frightful of all of Trump's flaws is his utter disregard for the rule of law. He doesn't even pretend to respect it, nor is it even clear that he understands what it is.