In the aftermath of the 2016 election and during the tumultuous first year of the Trump presidency, observers across the political spectrum have struggled to anticipate the likely consequences for American democracy. Never before has a sitting president so harshly questioned the integrity of elections, challenged the separation of powers, and verbally threatened the freedom of the press. Partisan polarization is at an all-time high, public trust at a historic low. For many Americans, democracy seems more imperiled now than at any time in living memory. And similar problems are afflicting other democracies around the world.
On May 1, Brookings and Bright Line Watch brought together the authors of four prominent new books that weigh in on the status and prospects of America’s democracy: “One Nation After Trump” by E.J. Dionne, Norm Ornstein (unable to attend), and Thomas Mann; “How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt; “The People vs. Democracy” by Yascha Mounk; and “Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy” by Bill Galston. Each book offers its own unique look at how we arrived at this moment, with an American president who is singularly transgressive of democratic norms, and how the country might best move forward. The authors discussed their books and joined a panel of experts to further examine the status of American democracy and solutions to ongoing challenges facing political institutions in the United States.
Following the discussion, the panel took questions from the audience.