Democracy is a process in which citizens are given power over how their government will operate. The United States, like many nations, has been a leader in this process. However, America’s aging system of governance is allowing an increasingly authoritarian and antidemocratic government to destroy its own democracy.
One of the pitfalls of democracy is that it does not meet the needs of many people in a way that helps them feel connected to their community and society. This problem is especially severe among people who lack status in American society. Those who feel their lives are devalued by their race, class, gender, or ethnicity can become angry and isolated. If they feel that their voice is not heard, they can use this frustration to rally support for an antidemocratic faction.
It is important for Americans to feel connected to their local communities, not simply because these communities can provide a place where they can exercise their voices but because they also offer opportunities to develop a sense of agency and a stronger connection to the larger world. Americans can gain this feeling by focusing on a variety of local prodemocracy efforts, including civic education, public-service campaigns, and political campaign work that focuses on the specific issues and problems facing their cities or towns.
This type of local, community-based work can help build a more inclusive America with complicated identities and greater agency for its residents. It will also help citizens feel more comfortable with their voices and a stronger commitment to their communities, which can encourage them to vote and support the broader prodemocracy movement.
Using a range of media to connect the prodemocracy movement to real people and to the real issues facing them can help Americans see that their concerns are shared by others and are not simply the pet grievances of partisans. For example, advertising could help Americans understand that the majority of the population is not racist and that it does not support racial discrimination.
Another approach is to create an arena for the American public to engage in a range of group pursuits that have moments of collective emotion and give people a chance to have fun together. This can include sports, concerts, and community service projects. It will also involve creative artistic endeavors and mass-media outreach to inculcate a positive, picture-driven vision of a more inclusive America.
If prodemocracy groups and narrative specialists cannot convey these messages to a broad audience, it is unlikely that they will succeed in building an alternative vision for the future. This will require a much more ambitious approach to communications and strategic campaigns than what most philanthropists currently focus on, but it is the only way to counter the great replacement theory that polarizes Americans and disincentivizes them from voting and supporting the broader prodemocracy effort.
A well-organized prodemocracy movement will need to speak across racial, generational, and class divides, while addressing societal pillars such as businesses, religion, and the military. It will also need to bring together unlikely allies from both the left and right and enlist them in efforts to address the legitimate grievances of their constituents. Ultimately, this will be the only way to save American democracy from authoritarians who are enlisting Americans in their fight against democracy.