what is democracy?
A system of self-governance in which citizens elect representatives to pursue their interest, and a system whose functionality relies upon the concepts of truth, justice/the rule of law, and an educated populace.
why is it important?
In the United States we rely on democracy as our system of government. Our democracy is created around the three branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial, each comprised of officials elected by registered citizens. It is further sub divided into Federal and State systems, providing for both centralized and decentralized power systems to impact daily life.
pillars of democracy
These pillars – justice, equality, freedom and representation – are a set of ideals that democracy strives to stand upon. In the United States the following systems are constructed to allow for these pillars to stand.
1. Respect for Human Rights
2. Separation of power in government through multi-party systems and division into three branches
3. A democratice voting system
4. Respect for Rule of Law
5. Democratic Governance
6. Citizen Participation
what can I do as a citizen to strengthen democracy?
Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make a difference in governance. It means promoting quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes.
Being civically engaged does not mean you have to march on Washington to demand change, but it does mean you are actively engaging within the local or state systems to help solve problems within your life and community.
Being civically engaged does not mean you have to scream at people you disagree with and not allow them to express their political beliefs, but it does mean that you stand up for what you believe in and try to engage others in the merits of the causes you are fighting for.
…start by watching this
now let’s reflect on…
Civic Action or participation in activities such as volunteering or service-learning to help better the community ~ What are actions you could take in your own community?
Civic Commitment or the willingness to make positive contributions to society ~ What problems would you want to commit to solving?
Civic Skills or the ability to be involved in civil society, politics and democracy ~ What skills do you have that can help solve the problem?
Social Cohesion or a sense of reciprocity, trust and bonding to others ~ Who do you know who would care about your cause?
self reflection exercise…
What are the values that are essential to your life both on and offline?
Make a list and then see how your actions online reflect what is listed.
…dive deeper into resources
Listen to the Democracy Work Podcasts from Penn State McCourtney Institute for Democracy/The Democracy Group
Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom
Jonathan Haidt on the psychology of democracy
Is it possible to overdo democracy?
Reason in politics and hope for democracy
learn the basics of media literacy
what are ways to engage civically?
Register to Vote, help others to do so and Vote in All Elections.
When We All Vote | Vote.org | Rock the Vote | Spread the Vote
Learn about the voting restrictions in place in your state.
Learn about the law suits taking place across the country to protect our elections, tracked by the Healthy Elections Project.
If you have friends or family that don’t make a habit of voting, have a conversation with them about why. Remind them of the significance of this civic duty, and of each citizen’s responsibility to bring life to our democracy.
Make sure you’re informed about how we as citizens can ensure this is a free and fair election: https://www.electiontaskforce.org/
Listen to How to Vote in America
Watch and host a screening of this short film on voter suppression in the 2020 election: https://www.bravenewfilms.org/suppressed?gclid=Cj0KCQjwit_8BRCoARIsAIx3Rj7EEHhBRy4Hq8R1s60A-6XHpiLrQDPzzoCIRZ2RN4dQRwbvaC41WV8aAjVREALw_wcB
Find your Senators. Who are they? What do they stand for?
Write your Senators to express your views on the upcoming impeachment vote
View a Sample Letter You Can Use to Start or Scroll to Copy & Paste
Explore Outreach Resources
Check out After We Vote to learn what you can do to Demand Justice and Protect Democracy Now
APA Guide to Writing to Your Representative
There are countless ways to help out within our local communities. Start by identifying the skills, knowledge and expertise you bring to the table. Then work on understanding the problems within your local community and how your skills can help solve them.
RUN FOR OFFICE
Who can run for office? You can!
Our current representation does not reflect the diversity and complexity that is the American people ~ one solution to that is more non-white males need to run. Do you fit that Bill? Are you passionate about your local community, state or betterment of our whole country? If so consider running for office!
To see what seats are up for election in your area check out this helpful tool ~ https://www.runforoffice.org/
Our ability to critically analyze and seek out the information necessary to make informed decisions is essential to maintaining our democracy.
As our lives continue to rely on digital technologies to deliver or news, entertainment and information our abilities to navigate online spaces and information is vital to our progress as a society. Without media literacy practices users of technology tend to find ineffective and inefficient pathways to the information they seek, getting trapped along the way by mis-information and online hate.
Media literacy helps to break this cycle of inefficiencies and provide users with the proper understandings to harness digital tools to enhance the productivity, connectivity and civic engagement within their individual lives.
self reflection exercise…
Which online platforms enrich your life and democratic experience?
Which drain it and consume your energy and attention? Reflect upon the ways in which you engage with politics and democracy online.
…dive deeper into resources
America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared article from The Atlantic
We need political parties. But their rabid partisanship could destroy American democracy article by Vox
The Disunited States: How partisan politics is polarising the US article by AlJazeera
U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided
America’s political system isn’t broken. The truth is scarier: It’s working exactly as designed. In this book, journalist Ezra Klein reveals how that system is polarizing us — and how we are polarizing it — with disastrous results.
Divided Politics: Divided Nation. The United States is caught in a partisan hyper conflict that divides politicians, communities—and even families. Politicians from the president to state and local office-holders play to strongly-held beliefs and sometimes even pour fuel on the resulting inferno. This polarization has become so intense that many people no longer trust anyone from a differing perspective.