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Capsule Review

When Democracy Trumps Populism: European and Latin American Lessons for the United States

In This Review

When Democracy Trumps Populism: European and Latin American Lessons for the United States
When Democracy Trumps Populism: European and Latin American Lessons for the United States
Edited by Kurt Weyland and Raúl L. Madrid
Cambridge University Press, 2019 236 pp. Purchase

In this welcome antidote to the many dire warnings that U.S. President Donald Trump could end liberal democracy in the United States, a group of seasoned political scientists express confidence that U.S. institutions will endure. In contrast to more vulnerable nations where authoritarian populists have triumphed—although not as frequently as alarmists often suggest—the United States has strong institutions, and the U.S. Constitution is notoriously difficult to amend. The United States’ well-established two-party system and its deep civil society and independent media have resisted Trump’s power grabs. And the very political polarization that helped Trump win office impedes him from gathering the overwhelming majority he would need to engineer a radical transformation. Moreover, Trump has not so far faced a crisis that he could use to mobilize majoritarian support, and even a national security blowup is likely to boost his popularity only briefly. At the same time, Weyland and Madrid recognize that serious shortcomings, including political gridlock, the undue influence of money in politics, and rising social inequality could eventually destabilize U.S. democracy. They suggest, however, that Trump’s norm-breaking behavior could generate “a democratic backlash” that rejuvenates liberal institutions.

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