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Review Essay

Democracy on the Brink

Protecting the Republic in Trump’s America

In This Review

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government
Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government
By Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels
Princeton University Press, 2016, 390 pp. Purchase
Democracy: A Case Study
Democracy: A Case Study
By David A. Moss
Harvard University Press, 2017, 742 pp. Purchase

American democracy has always been a work in progress. What Abraham Lincoln called “the unfinished work” of ensuring “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has suffered its share of setbacks. For decades, Americans’ trust in government has been declining, signaling that not all was well. Yet until recently, democracy seemed secure in the United States.

No longer. President Donald Trump has unleashed a barrage of attacks on the underpinnings of democratic governance, threatening checks and balances, civil liberties, civil rights, and long-established norms. During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump discarded the notion of facts as necessary anchors of political discourse and challenged the legitimacy of his political opponent, threatening to “lock her up” if he won. Since his inauguration, he has castigated sections of the mainstream media as “fake news” and called them “the enemy of the American people,” attacked the judiciary, and claimed—without

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