American democracy is facing a crisis as fraught as we’ve seen in decades. Donald Trump’s presidency has raised the specter of authoritarian rule. Extreme polarization and the scorched-earth war between the parties drags on with no end in sight. At the heart of this dangerous moment is a paradox: It took a figure as uniquely menacing as Trump to rivet the nation’s attention on the fragility of our democracy. Yet the causes of our dysfunction are long-running—they predate Trump, helped facilitate his rise, and, distressingly, will outlast his presidency.
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