A seeming explosion of support for right-wing populist parties has triggered widespread fears that liberal democracy is facing its worst crisis since the 1930s. In his book ‘Democracy Erodes from the Top’, Larry Bartels reveals that the real crisis stems not from an increasingly populist public but from political leaders who exploit or mismanage the chronic vulnerabilities of democracy. By demonstrating the inadequacy of conventional bottom-up interpretations of Europe’s political crisis, Bartels turns our understanding of democratic politics upside down. At SPUI25, Bartels will present his book and consider the implications of his research in a discussion with Nik de Boer and Sarah de Lange that is moderated by Ursula Daxecker.