History -- at least recent history -- is not on the side of democracy. In just the last few months, the growing ranks of dictators have flexed their muscles, and freedom has been in retreat.
The list is grim: a draconian crackdown in Nicaragua; a military takeover in Myanmar, with bloody repression that the United Nations says has left more than 850 people dead; a tightening grip by Beijing on Hong Kong.
But in a world where democracy is often swimming against the political tide, scholars also see some good news.
It just requires a longer view of history.