Can Democracy Survive?

In the face of democratic backsliding around the world, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anne Applebaum and Richard Haass discuss what needs to happen for democracy to survive.

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  • Richard Haass
    President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations
Episode Guests
  • Anne E. Applebaum
    Staff Writer, Atlantic

Show Notes

About This Episode


Will democracy have to evolve to survive in the twenty-first century? Richard Haass sits down with Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anne Applebaum to discuss this question and more on the second episode of Nine Questions for the World. What lessons can the United States learn from other democracies? And how alarmed should Americans be about democratic backsliding?  


This podcast series was originally presented as “The 21st Century World: Big Challenges and Big Ideas,” an event series in celebration of CFR’s centennial. This episode is based on a live event that took place on May 4, 2021.


See the corresponding video here.


Dig Deeper


From Anne Applebaum


The Bad Guys Are Winning,” Atlantic


How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire,” Atlantic


There are many ways for democracy to fail,” Washington Post


From CFR 


Elliott Abrams, “Reorganizing U.S. Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights” 


Stewart M. Patrick, “With the United States Backsliding, Who Will Defend Democracy in the World?


Yascha Mounk, “How Populism Has Proven Lethal in This Pandemic” 


Democracy Tested: The Global Democratic Recession, With Yascha Mounk,” The President’s Inbox


John Campbell and Nolan Quinn, “What’s Happening to Democracy in Africa?


Read More


Jill Lepore, “The Last Time Democracy Almost Died,” New Yorker


Robert Kagan, “Is Democracy in Decline? The Weight of Geopolitics,” Brookings Institution


Marc Rotenberg, “Democracy and the Internet,” New York Times


Watch and Listen

How democracies can win the war on reality,” Democracy Works, Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy

Climate Change

Richard Haass and economist Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, discuss the realities of climate change as well as renewable energy, carbon pricing, and the prospect of building a carbon-neutral economy.

Technology and Innovation

Richard Haass and Stanford University Professor Fei-Fei Li discuss how to contend with technologies that can do both good and harm.

Political History and Theory

Richard Haass and Margaret MacMillan, one of the world’s foremost historians, discuss how best to apply history to better understand current global challenges, including the erosion of democracy, the rise of China, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Top Stories on CFR


Russia has renewed its long-stalled push for unification with Belarus, using the country as a launchpad for its war against Ukraine and a hardening bulwark against NATO rivals to the west.


Ian Johnson, the Stephen A. Schwarzman senior fellow for China studies at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss how Chinese filmmakers, journalists, and artists are challenging the Chinese Communist Party’s version of history. 

Climate Change

For decades, U.S. homeowners have counted on property insurance to protect them from catastrophic loss if their homes are destroyed—and the U.S. economy has rested on the functionality of that model. But as this summer’s extreme weather broke records, private companies reduced their coverage. As climate disasters become more frequent, can home insurance hold up?