Tyranny of the Minority

Reactionary forces on the political right pose a major challenge to US democracy. They use outdated political institutions to consistently obstruct or even overrule majorities. In their new book "Tyranny of the Minority", WZB Director Daniel Ziblatt and his co-author Steven Levitsky (Harvard University) analyse which institutions favour such minority rule and where there is a need for reform of the American constitution.

The United States Constitution is the oldest written constitution in the world. Compared to other democracies, it has rarely been amended. According to Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, this fact poses a major problem for American democracy. Reactionary forces in the Republican Party use outdated political institutions to systematically obstruct or even overrule majorities. The authors call for constitutional reform to protect American democracy from further erosion. In particular, they call for the abolition of elitist upper houses, indirect elections and lifetime tenure for judges. These institutions have protected the Republican Party and allowed it to move ever further to the right - even though, with one exception, it has failed to win a majority of the popular vote in any of the last eight presidential elections.

In Tyranny of the Minority, the authors use numerous examples - from France in the 1930s to Thailand today - to illustrate why and how political parties turn against democracy. Their analysis shows that much of the Republican Party leadership in the US has also lost its commitment to democratic principles. A key moment for Ziblatt and Levitsky is the 2020 congressional vote, in which 147 Republicans attempted to overturn the election results. This shows that the threat to democracy goes beyond Donald Trump and is already deeply rooted in the party. It is a stark warning against the efforts of the American right to undermine multi-ethnic democracy by systematically advancing minority interests. To preserve democracy, political reforms are urgently needed to reconcile the need for majority rule with the need to protect minorities, as well as a citizens' movement to put enough pressure on politicians to act.

22.11.2023 / MP