Democracy

The democracy legacy of the Bush years will not only be that of hanging chads, Jack Abramoff, or the "K Street Project." The Bush years have also seen the resurgence of participation marked by new voters, new sources of campaign cash, and the rise of online activism.

December 7, 2008

Appeared in Democracy, Issue 11, Winter 2009

Few presidents talk about democracy around the world as much as George W. Bush has. So it is striking that Bush's presidency has so degraded America's instruments of democracy at home: the political process, the legislative process, and the sheer competence and legitimacy of government itself. In myriad ways, the Administration has bristled with contempt for accountability and simple democratic norms. But the democracy legacy of the Bush years will not only be that of hanging chads, Jack Abramoff, or the "K Street Project." For the Bush years have also seen a growing public backlash, the resurgence of participation marked by new voters, new sources of campaign cash, and the rise of online activism.

For most of our history, democracy has evoked more poetry than proces. This intense strain of American thought holds that the "distributed intelligence" of the public is better than the blinkered resolve of the "decider." When progressives tap that notion of citizens as the agents of their own progress, we touch hearts—as the response to the Obama campaign, and especially his victory, shows.

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