Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

There’s an (overused) internet meme from the movie Princess Bride, in which the character played by Mandy Patinkin looks with concern at the Wally Shawn character after one of the latter’s many repetitions of “It’s inconceivable!” and says, “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” That warhorse popped into my head frequently at Anne Applebaum’s use of “democracy” in her elegaic new book. Walter Horn Reviews.

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Steffen Ganghof's Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism

Steffen Ganghof's Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism

As Steffan Ganghof points out in his comprehensive book on alternative governmental structures, there are two angles from which one can discuss the alleged merits of the particular system, “semi-parliamentarism,” that he endorses. One approach is by empirical study. This involves a consideration of what have been the instrumental values of similar and dissimilar approaches around the world and throughout history. I should not like to disguise the fact that I could opine on those matters only with extreme diffidence. Walter Horn reviews.

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Robert Talisse, Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe the Other Side

Robert Talisse, Sustaining Democracy: What We Owe the Other Side

Robert Talisse makes a passionate plea for a particular sort of civility in his new book. But he wants us to understand that it's not precisely politeness on which democracy depends, since good adversarial democrats should be congratulated rather than scorned for cross-examining, contradicting, arguing, and a number of other behaviors made famous by a certain Monty Python sketch. Walter Horn Reviews

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Joshua Spivak, Recall Elections: From Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Newsom

Joshua Spivak, Recall Elections: From Alexander Hamilton to Gavin Newsom

It seems quite intuitive,-indeed patently obvious,-that in a self-governing democracy, the citizenry --or the majority of it anyhow--should have all and only the governors and laws that they want. So, the processes in countries with parliamentary arrangements for dumping heads of state by votes of no confidence and for revising their “constitutions” by simple majority vote seem to be precisely what is required by democratic principles. Walter Horn Reviews.

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Michael Huemer and Daniel Layman, Is Political Authority An Illusion? A Debate

Michael Huemer and Daniel Layman, Is Political Authority An Illusion? A Debate

When two or more scholars are to face off on some issue, I suppose it is best if they agree on some—though obviously not all—of the key issues they will be discussing. Perhaps the common ground will involve foundational matters and the disagreements will arise on what is claimed to follow from them. Or it may be the other way round: the areas of agreement may appear among the conclusions rather than the starting points or the manner in which it is believed those termini can be reached. Naturally, where there is little in the way of mutual understanding, such discussions can go spinning off into outer space because of wildly conflicting intuitions. Fortunately, there is just about the right amount of background agreement in the debate. Walter Horn Reviews.

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Mary Anne Franks, The Cult of the Constitution

Mary Anne Franks, The Cult of the Constitution

No one should doubt the righteousness of the indignation that is so refulgent in Mary Anne Franks’ book, The Cult of the Constitution . And there should be little doubt that the hoary document that currently holds U.S. citizens in an anti-democratic hammerlock is the object of a cultish devotion. That particular gospel was designed by and for propertied white males and since its ratification has largely been employed, mostly by more white men, in a manner that guarantees the continuance of the 18th century hierarchy it was originally created to protect. Remember, when blacks and women did finally get the vote, it was only because the ruling brotherhood deigned to allow it. Walter Horn Reviews.

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Adam Jentleson, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy

Adam Jentleson, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy

The Jentleson family has been involved in high-level American politics and policy for a long time. Bruce Jentleson, the father of the author of the book being reviewed here, is a distinguished academic and was a campaign aide to Presidential Candidate Al Gore when his son Adam was studying history at Columbia. A few years later, in 2004 and 2008, Adam was writing speeches for two other Democratic also-rans, John Kerry and John Edwards. Then it was the dad’s turn again: he was a foreign policy consultant to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 run. While Jentleson perehas been a leading foreign policy expert for years, working with Madeleine Albright, serving as head of the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, and writing a number of highly regarded books on diplomacy, Jentleson filsopted to turn his knowledge of U.S. history and speech-writing skills to a job in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, and, more recently, to authoring a highly readable book about the Senate’s steady descent into blatant iniquity. Walter Horn Reviews.

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2. 	Brian Christopher Jones, Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy: Challenging the Infatuation with Writtenness (Elgar, 2020

2. Brian Christopher Jones, Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy: Challenging the Infatuation with Writtenness (Elgar, 2020

Review of Brian Christopher Jones, Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy: Challenging the Infatuation with Writtenness. You’re on your way to your eighth high school volleyball game this month. Although the trip to the school where your daughter will be playing is less than five miles away from your house, you see a couple of dozen American flags on the way, a few on poles, the rest angling up from above front doors. Shortly after your arrival at the gym, you’ll be required to doff your hat and stand through one more performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” either by a brass band recorded in 1967 and reproduced on some sort of squawk box or sung by a junior who hopes to major in drama at SUNY Purchase.

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1. Review of Lee Drutman's Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America

1. Review of Lee Drutman's Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America

Observers of governments have been fascinated by political parties (or “factions”) at least since the time that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were voicing their dread of them in The Federalist Papers. Are they akin to pressure groups, lurking around the edges of legislatures pushing for special treatment, or are they rather what actually becomes the government when their preferred candidates win elections? Can democracies exist without them or are they necessary if people are to get what they really want from their rulers? For good or ill, however, as political science advanced into the 20thCentury, many of its leading lights began to lose sight of the importance of parties. Kicking off a new series of book reviews, Walter Horn reviews Lee Drutman's 'Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop'

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