Episode 3
Undermining Democracy by Democratic Means: how can we stop it?

As the results of the 2020 US election are trickling in, we are exploring how laws – and notably electoral laws – can be used to dismantle the constitutional systems from within. The undermining of democracy evokes sharp images of authoritarianism and a contempt for libertarianism. Instead, what we are facing today is a deceptive onslaught through political and legal machinations, hollowing out the fundamental processes of freedom that lie at the heart of democracy and institutional legitimacy. In the third episode of Democracy in Question?, IWM Rector and host of this podcast, Shalini Randeria asks Kim Lane Scheppele (Princeton University) how liberal principles and institutions are being subverted while using electoral majorities. They explore democracy’s “democratic undoing” by elected leaders who use democratic mandates to undermine and subvert the constitutional systems of checks and balances that they inherited. Referring to this phenomenon, Kim Lane Scheppele has coined the provocative term of “autocratic legalism” to explain the rise of soft authoritarian regimes. Her conversation with Shalini Randeria focuses on these developments, uncovering the origins and threats to democracy and exploring prescriptions for the resurgence of democracy.

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