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Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy
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Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  54 ratings  ·  18 reviews
"An important work of scholarship that should be read by anyone concerned with America’s future." --Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World ...more
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published August 11th 2020 by St. Martin's Press
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Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt very lucky to receive an advance copy of the book I heard about on NPR earlier this summer, “Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy”, by Suzanne Mettler and Robert Lieberman. It released today in hardcover.
This book takes a long look at the history of the United States and its relationship to the ideals of democracy, focusing on five crisis periods the 1790s, the Civil War, the Gilded Age, the Depression, and Watergate. What the authors posit is that each of these histor
Sep 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Overall a good book, but one of the authors has a real hobby horse on executive power and does a very poor job on the topic. Lurking behind every law delegating regulatory power to the executive branch is a threat to democracy. I'm sorry, but it's insane to compare the Obama Administration's development of the Clean Power Plan, a legitimate use of the Clean Air Act, to the behaviors of the Trump Administration. The fourth threat needed more attention to distinguish an actual threat from legitima ...more
Nov 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of two current books that do a fine job of placing today’s troubling situation for the United States in the context of history. (The other is Putnam’s “The Upswing.”

This is very important, for it helps illustrate the point that the image many of us have had of US politics — that was an ideal period in the recent past when everything functioned smoothly and major policies enjoyed considerable consensus — was never a very accurate picture of our actual history. The truth is that from
Helen Jacoby
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an engagingly written look at challenges to American democracy since the country’s founding, and how the threats to our democracy are currently greater than at any other point in history. The chapters describing 5 historical periods are especially interesting. I was surprised by how much history I learned. The authors make an excellent case for the danger our democracy is in right now. I only wish that they had been able to provide more advice and guidance about what we can all do to saf ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone that cares about our democracy should read this book. It is excellent and well researched.
Kiona Meade
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, in the introduction alone, I wished that my AP US History class had this as a textbook instead of the glossed over “America has always been a democracy since day 1, with that little civil war towards the end of the 19th century” version that I had.

As a Millennial, I think it’s important to know that the never ending existential crisis regarding identity politics and the fragility of democracy is not something new, as older generations tend to imply. But rather, America has always had
The Trump Administration is almost into its last week as I write this review, and it's fair to say that his Administration is even more controversial as he heads out the door than the day he barged through it.

I've read a number of books about the Trump Presidency, some of them great, some good, some meh. Most of them have been "hot take" assessments such as Bob Woodward's "Fear" and "Rage," Michael Wolf's "Fire and Fury," Vicky Ward's "Kushner, Inc." and so on. "Four Threats" is co-written by Su
Sep 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book is so contradicting and hypocritical.

Right at the introduction of the book.... the first paragraph contradicts the following paragraph, “When the president used his power... shocked many citizens.”

This is the following paragraph, “Tensions among the nation’s political leaders had been escalating... Fights and mob violence followed.”

The author is not making any sense. Any logical sense. Isn't being logically clear. Isn't fact checking. Isn't assuring the author's work is logically flow
Dec 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Readable and I quite liked the bits about various points in American history and the challenges our democracy has faced.

I honestly did not know that we once had a three-way tie for the presidency.

I disagreed with a couple of points: the claim that immigrants tend to be liberal. This seems to be factually dubious at best-- I know no liberal immigrants, nor have I read anything that bolsters this claim. Cuban immigrants voted for Trump. As did Romanian and Russian communities, to name a few.

It als
Josephine Borgeson
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As someone who has not devoted much energy to studying American history, I found this book helped to put into perspective the threats facing our United States democracy today. Actually, I do remember U.S. history from high school one hundred years ago, but they didn't teach much about where our government failed or overstepped and why. Fifty-five years later a helpful corrective.
I learned about this book from a short webinar led by Mettler and sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute. The volume is
Andrew Clarke
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great History

This was a very enlightening book about several periods of American history that I had not understood - the Alien and Sedition Act, the election of 1800, the mechanisms for the failure of Reconstruction, and the environment around FDRs presidency. I feel like the civil war has been beaten to death as has Nixon’s presidency, but that may be my bias.

Some parts of the book where very interesting. The framework is valuable, a list of four threats, but is not fully substantiated by evide
Aug 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The authors contend that in the course of US history four overarching threats (polarization, conflict over belonging, rising income inequality, and executive aggrandizement) have not been realized at the same time until the present, although they have been experienced in clusters less than four in the past. The thesis is just OK and the look back through history feels no more than touching the surface, thus overall the book never feels overly insightful or pertinent.
Jenna Spinelle
Like others have shared, I was surprised at how much history was in a book by two political scientists. The historical storytelling was an effective way to present the larger trends the authors describe.

I had the opportunity to talk with Robert Lieberman for a podcast I host and produce about democracy. We expanded on some of the book's main themes and talked about how they square with the democracy reform movement in the U.S.:
Stephen Newman
Nov 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Very effectively lays out their argument in a solid framework and with lots of thorough analysis. But I was also hoping for more analysis of how to address the problems they identify, particularly that of executive aggrandizement in a politically polarized era. For these reasons it gets three rather than four stars.
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
An enlightening warning about the constant threat of democratic backsliding and a history lesson regarding previous periods in American history when the country has moved away from pure democracy rather than towards it. Useful context in today's environment. The solutions are relatively simple, but as difficult as they are important. ...more
Sep 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Good book but I remain skeptical that the 4 issues are as important as postulated. There is great historical background that is a painful reminder of how inclusive the US could have been.
Howard Sundwall
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting historical analysis, although it does read like an academic thesis.
Mary T. Miller
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book. I loved the history lesson!
Raymond W. Barton
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Suzanne Mettler is the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in the Government Department at Cornell University. She is the author of several books, including The Government-Citizen Disconnect; Degrees of Inequality: How The Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream; and The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Programs Undermine American Democracy. She is the reci ...more

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