Democracies can collapse or erode beyond repair, but they can also suffer substantial yet “non-fatal” deterioration in the quality of democratic institutions, and then experience a rebound. Such “near misses” have received little or no attention in the new wave of scholarship on why democracies die (or survive). This article develops the concept of a democratic near miss. It first considers numerical metrics of democratic quality as a means of identifying near misses, but finds that these metrics provide inconsistent and conflicting guidance. Instead, this essay uses a case study method—focusing on Finland in 1930, Colombia in 2010, and Sri Lanka in 2015—to capture the dynamics of democratic near misses. These cases suggest that nonmajoritarian actors, including political-party elites and unelected judges and bureaucrats, have a critical role to play in averting democratic erosion.