Four Threats to American Democracy

Part of our webcast series, "SNF Agora Conversations: Election 2020"


Webcast recording

As we head into the final weeks of the 2020 election season, it feels like our democracy is facing an existential crisis. In their new book, Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, authors Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman map out five times in U.S. history that our democracy was in serious crisis, and they identify four characteristics of democratic disruption: political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power. We’ve survived these threats in the past—but never all at once. What lessons can past crises teach us about navigating a path forward?


  • Robert Lieberman, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University
  • Suzanne Mettler, John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions in the Government Department at Cornell University
  • Peter Levine, moderator, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life, and SNF Agora Visiting Fellow


Four Threats cover image

Buy Four Threats from the Ivy Bookshop