American Democracy. This section will present information and an opportunity to discuss how to use our democracy, how to change it, and how to decide what’s working and what isn’t.
Democratic elections are widely recognized as a foundation of legitimate government. By allowing citizens to choose the manner in which they are governed, elections form the starting point for all other democratic institutions and practices. Genuine democracy, however, requires substantially more. In addition to elections, democracy requires constitutional limits on governmental power, guarantees of basic rights, tolerance of religious or ethnic minorities, and representation of diverse viewpoints, among other things.
To build authentic democracy, societies must foster a democratic culture and rule of law that govern behavior between elections and constrain those who might be tempted to undermine election processes. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked recently at Georgetown University, “Democracy means not only elections to choose leaders, but also active citizens and a free press and an independent judiciary and transparent and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights equally and fairly. In democracies, respecting rights isn’t a choice leaders make day by day; it is the reason they govern.” (Washington, D.C., December 14, 2009)