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Most Americans would say that it is our system of checks and balances that prevents authoritarianism from arising in the U.S. — in particular, Congress functioning as a check on a president with authoritarian impulses. Levitsky and Ziblatt argue, though, that institutions alone cannot save democracy — the guardrails of democracy are what check would-be authoritarians, and ours are becoming dangerously weak. Wu claims that players in an “unwritten constitution” — state and local election officials, members of the justice department, the military — are what actually checked Trump.

Do you agree? Has our system of formal checks and balances weakened so much that it no longer can be counted on to thwart authoritarianism?

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