Top 100

Top 50 Steven Levitsky Quotes (2024 Update)

Steven Levitsky Quote: “One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion. Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats – wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks – to justify antidemocratic measures.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The drift into authoritarianism doesn’t always set off alarm bells. Citizens are often slow to realize that their democracy is being dismantled even as it happens before their eyes.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “President Trump exhibited clear authoritarian instincts during his first year in office. In Chapter 4, we presented three strategies by which elected authoritarians seek to consolidate power: capturing the referees, sidelining the key players, and rewriting the rules to tilt the playing field against opponents. Trump attempted all three of these strategies.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “On the electoral road, none of these things happen. There are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Authoritarian politicians cast their rivals as criminal, subversive, unpatriotic, or a threat to national security or the existing way of life.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders – presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power. Some of these leaders dismantle democracy quickly, as Hitler did in the wake of the 1933 Reichstag fire in Germany. More often, though, democracies erode slowly, in barely visible steps.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Because there is no single moment – no coup, declaration of martial law, or suspension of the constitution – in which the regime obviously “crosses the line” into dictatorship, nothing may set off society’s alarm bells. Those who denounce government abuse may be dismissed as exaggerating or crying wolf. Democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Although mass responses to extremist appeals matter, what matters more is whether political elites, and especially parties, serve as filters. Put simply, political parties are democracy’s gatekeepers.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Some of history’s most tragic democratic breakdowns were preceded by the degrading of basic norms.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The second category in our litmus test is the denial of the legitimacy of one’s opponents. Authoritarian politicians cast their rivals as criminal, subversive, unpatriotic, or a threat to national security or the existing way of life.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “False charges of fraud can undermine public confidence in elections –.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Finally, whenever extremists emerge as serious electoral contenders, mainstream parties must forge a united front to defeat them. To quote Linz, they must be willing to “join with opponents ideologically distant but committed to the survival of the democratic political order.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “That brings us to a final factor shaping President Trump’s ability to damage our democracy: crisis. Major security crises – wars or large-scale terrorist attacks – are political game changers. Almost invariably, they increase support for the government. Citizens become more likely to tolerate, and even endorse, authoritarian measures when they fear for their security.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “To comply with the letter of the law as stipulated in the Fifteenth Amendment, no mention of race could be made in efforts to restrict voting rights, so states introduced purportedly “neutral” poll taxes, property requirements, literacy tests, and complex written ballots.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “But when faced with a would-be authoritarian, establishment politicians must unambiguously reject him or her and do everything possible to defend democratic institutions – even if that means temporarily joining forces with bitter rivals.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “In our view, the idea that Democrats should “fight like Republicans” is misguided. First of all, evidence from other countries suggests that such a strategy often plays directly into the hands of authoritarians.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Opposition to the Trump administration’s authoritarian behavior should be muscular, but it should seek to preserve, rather than violate, democratic rules and norms. Where possible, opposition should center on Congress, the courts, and, of course, elections. If Trump is defeated via democratic institutions, it will strengthen those institutions.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The civil rights movement, culminating in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, put an end to this partisan arrangement. Not only did it democratize the South, at long last, by enfranchising blacks and ending single-party rule, but it accelerated a long-run party system realignment whose consequences are still unfolding today.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The third criterion is toleration or encouragement of violence. Partisan violence is very often a precursor of democratic breakdown.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The president may break the law, threaten citizens’ rights, and even violate the constitution without having to worry that such abuse will be investigated or censured. With the courts packed and law enforcement authorities brought to heel, governments can act with impunity.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Knowing how citizens in other democracies have successfully resisted elected autocrats, or why they tragically failed to do so, is essential to those seeking to defend American democracy today.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The Trump administration also mounted efforts to sideline key players in the political system. President Trump’s rhetorical attacks on critics in the media are an example. His repeated accusations that outlets such as the New York Times and CNN were dispensing “fake news” and conspiring against him look familiar to any student of authoritarianism.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “It was the Civil Rights Act, which Democratic president Lyndon Johnson embraced and 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater opposed, that would define the Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party of racial status quo.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “These attacks can be consequential: If the public comes to share the view that opponents are linked to terrorism and the media are spreading lies, it becomes easier to justify taking actions against them.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “In other words, the two parties are now divided over race and religion – two deeply polarizing issues that tend to generate greater intolerance and hostility than traditional policy issues such as taxes and government spending.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “This is how we tend to think of democracies dying: at the hands of men with guns.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “President Trump demonstrated striking hostility toward the referees – law enforcement, intelligence, ethics agencies, and the courts.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Over the last quarter century, Democrats and Republicans have become much more than just two competing parties, sorted into liberal and conservative camps. Their voters are now deeply divided by race, religious belief, geography, and even “way of life.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Those who denounce government abuse may be dismissed as exaggerating or crying wolf. Democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Is our democracy in danger? It is a question we never thought we’d be asking. We have been colleagues for fifteen years, thinking, writing, and teaching students about failures of democracy in other places and times – Europe’s dark 1930s, Latin America’s repressive 1970s. We have spent years researching new forms of authoritarianism emerging around the globe. For us, how and why democracies die has been an occupational obsession.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Two basic norms have preserved America’s checks and balances in ways we have come to take for granted: mutual toleration, or the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals, and forbearance, or the idea that politicians should exercise restraint in deploying their institutional prerogatives.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “A security crisis also facilitated Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian turn. In September 1999, shortly after Putin was named prime minister, a series of bombings in Moscow and other cities – presumably by Chechen terrorists – killed nearly three hundred people. Putin responded by launching a war in Chechnya and a large-scale crackdown.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “But now we find ourselves turning to our own country. Over the past two years, we have watched politicians say and do things that are unprecedented in the United States – but that we recognize as having been the precursors of democratic crisis in other places.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad used a politically loyal police force and a packed judiciary to investigate, arrest, and imprison his leading rival, Anwar Ibrahim, on sodomy charges in the late 1990s.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Beginning in the 1960s, however, Chile’s culture of compromise was strained by Cold War polarization. Some on the left, inspired by the Cuban Revolution, began to dismiss the country’s tradition of political give and take as a bourgeois anachronism.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Even well-designed constitutions cannot, by themselves, guarantee democracy. For one, constitutions are always incomplete. Like any set of rules, they have countless gaps and ambiguities. No operating manual, no matter how detailed, can anticipate all possible contingencies or prescribe how to behave under all possible circumstances.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “There is always uncertainty over how a politician with no track record will behave in office, but as we noted earlier, antidemocratic leaders are often identifiable before they come to power.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “North Carolina offers a window into what politics without guardrails looks like – and a possible glimpse into America’s future. When partisan rivals become enemies, political competition descends into warfare, and our institutions turn into weapons. The result is a system hovering constantly on the brink of crisis.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Likewise, when Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal threatened to block President Fujimori’s bid for a third term in 1997, Fujimori’s allies in congress impeached three of the body’s seven justices – on the grounds that, in declaring Fujimori’s effort to evade constitutional term limits “unconstitutional,” they themselves had breached the constitution.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Donald Trump’s surprise victory was made possible not only by public disaffection but also by the Republican Party’s failure to keep an extremist demagogue within its own ranks from gaining the nomination.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Citizens are often slow to realize that their democracy is being dismantled – even as it happens before their eyes.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Yet, we worry. American politicians now treat their rivals as enemies, intimidate the free press, and threaten to reject the results of elections.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “These two norms undergirded American democracy for most of the twentieth century. Leaders of the two major parties accepted one another as legitimate and resisted the temptation to use their temporary control of institutions to maximum partisan advantage.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was masterful at this. In 2011, he won a massive $40 million libel suit against the owners and editor of a major newspaper, El Universo, for publishing an editorial that labeled him a “dictator.” Correa called the case a “great step forward for the liberation of our Americas from one of the largest and most unpunished powers: the corrupt media.” He later pardoned the owners, but the lawsuit had a powerful chilling effect on the press.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “For example, Fujimori took office amid hyperinflation and a mounting guerrilla insurgency, so when he justified his 1992 presidential coup as a necessary evil, most Peruvians agreed with him. Fujimori’s approval rating shot up to 81 percent after the coup.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Finally, Democrats could consider more comprehensive labor market policies, such as more extensive job training, wage subsidies for employers to train and retain workers, work-study programs for high school and community-college students, and mobility allowances for displaced employees.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “Demagogues attack their critics in harsh and provocative terms – as enemies, as subversives, and even as terrorists.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “A comparative approach also reveals how elected autocrats in different parts of the world employ remarkably similar strategies to subvert democratic institutions. As these patterns become visible, the steps toward breakdown grow less ambiguous – and easier to combat. Knowing how citizens in other democracies have successfully resisted elected autocrats, or why they tragically failed to do so, is essential to those seeking to defend American democracy today.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “In 1993, New York’s Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former social scientist, made an incisive observation: Humans have a limited ability to cope with people behaving in ways that depart from shared standards.”
Steven Levitsky Quote: “The simple fact of the matter is that the world has never built a multiethnic democracy in which no particular ethnic group is in the majority and where political equality, social equality and economies that empower all have been achieved.”
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