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Sonoma County Gazette
How Democracies Die

Protecting Democracy -
An Evening with Daniel Ziblatt

May 2, 2018


“Many Americans are justifiably frightened by what is happening to our country. But protecting our democracy requires more than just fright or outrage. We must learn from other countries to see the warning signs…We must be aware of the fateful missteps that have wrecked other democracies. And we must see how citizens have risen to meet the great democratic crises of the past, overcoming their own deep-seated divisions to avert breakdown. History doesn’t repeat itself. But it rhymes. The promise of history, and the hope of How Democracies Die, is that we can find the rhymes before it is too late.”

~ Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsy

By Suze Cohan

Daniel Ziblatt, photo by Stephanie MitchellOn Friday, May 18th, Occidental Center for the Arts is proud to present an Evening with Daniel Ziblatt, Harvard Professor of Government and co-author of international bestseller, How Democracies Die. Daniel is an Occidental native, born and raised, and attended Harmony Elementary School. Its former multi-purpose room is now the Performing Arts Center. What more fitting tribute to Harmony School than to invite Daniel back, now an esteemed professor for a visit to his hometown, with an international bestseller in hand! Although on book tours throughout the US and Europe in addition to his teaching schedule, Daniel gladly accepted our invitation a few months ago to come speak. His only other speaking engagements in California at this time will be Tuesday, May 15th in Danville, and Wed, May 16th at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

Together, Professors Ziblatt and Levitsy have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America. Daniel studies Europe from the nineteenth century to the present specializing in the study of European politics, state-building, democratization and historical political economy. He is the author of Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (2017). Levitsy’s research focuses on Latin America and the developing world., and is the author of Competitive Authoritarianism. Drawing on a wide range of historical and global examples, from1930’s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey and Venezuala to the American south during Jim Crow, Ziblatt and Levitsky show how democracies die-and how ours can be saved. They have both written for Vox and the New York Times.

“We think of democracies as dying at the hands of men with guns,” they write, “but more often, they die at the hands of elected leaders who maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance. People do not immediately realize what is happening.” “Ultimately, American democracy depends on us—the citizens of the United States. No single political leader can end a democracy; no single leader can rescue one, either. Democracy is a shared enterprise. Its fate depends on all of us.”

The evening will begin at 7 pm in OCA’S main auditorium with a talk and selected readings from the book. A vigorous Q&A will follow, with book sales and signing. Admission is $5.00 and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. We recommend advanced tickets as this event will most probably sell out.

For advanced sales, go to There will be a reception following, with wine and beer for sale, and light refreshments by donation. OCA is accessible to people with disabilities.

For more information, please call (707) 874-9392 or


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