Two political scientists, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, are getting ready to release their new book “How Democracies Die” next week. Levitsky and Ziblat are both Harvard professors who have specialized in the field of Democracy and destruction of democracy.

Their book discusses current and past US political leaders in terms of their level of threat to democracy.

Trump’s threat to democracy

Levitsky and Ziblatt have put together a list of four elements which can be used to determine a political figure’s level of danger when it comes to democracy.

According to New York Times, the elements are as follows: The leader does not show a good commitment to rules of democracy, they do not treat their opponents as legitimate, they tolerate violence, and lastly, they show a certain degree of willingness to reduce civil or media liberties.

The political scientists claim that if a political figure fits even one of the four elements, it is a cause for concern. The good news is that not one US leader in the past century, with the exception of Richard Nixon, has met a single criterion from their list. The bad news is that Donald Trump has met them all.

How do democracies die?

There is a false assumption when it comes to destruction of democracies. Normally, people assume that democracies are destroyed through coups or violent revolutions, however that is not the case, according to Levitsky and Ziblatt.

They list countries such as Venezuela, Russia, Hungary, where democracy was defeated by powerful individuals who gained political power through elections, and not by illegal means. For example, Hugo Chávez was elected president in Venezuela through a democratic vote, only to take the country into autocracy.

The Harvard professors emphasize the importance of voting in democracy.

They add that no more than 2% of Germans supported fascism before it gained power, and that at the time, there was not a lot of support for authoritarianism in Germany. And yet fascism rose to power due to the blindness of political insiders and the general public.

While Donald Trump has tried to undermine the US political system numerous times, he is repeatedly stopped by institutions of the United States which ensure that no person may gain absolute power over the people.

American democratic norms, however, have taken a beating from Trump’s constant denouncing of US institutions, the news media and his opponents, which is why the media and the public must continue to hold him accountable for his words and actions.