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Democracy

  • Democracy is an interesting, even laudable, notion and there is no question but that when compared to Communism, which is too dull, or Fascism, which is too exciting, it emerges as the most palatable form of government.

  • ... democracy produces both heroes and villains, but it differs from a fascist state in that it does not produce a hero who is a villain.

  • Democracy makes many taxing demands on its practitioners, but suspension of the intelligence is not one of them.

  • Every democratic system evolves its own conventions. It is not only the water but the banks which make the river.

  • Without democracy in our homes, we will never have it in the world.

  • In an autocracy, one person has his way; in an aristocracy, a few people have their way; in a democracy, no one has his way.

  • Despotism subjects a nation to one tyrant; democracy, to many.

  • The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people.

  • Democracy must be conceived as a process, not a goal.

  • ... a fatal defect in majority rule is that by its very nature it abolishes itself. Majority rule must inevitably become minority rule: the majority is too big to handle itself; it organizes itself into committees ... which in their turn resolve themselves into a committee of one ...

  • Democracy is the fig leaf of elitism.

  • What frightens me about America today is that in the large majority there is no active sense of the value of the individual: few citizens feel that they are the Republic, responsible for what happens. And when the individual in a democracy ceases to feel his importance, then there is grave danger that he will give over his freedom, if not to a Fascist State, then to the advertising men or Publicity Agents or to the newspaper he happens to read.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1946, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • A democratic form of government, a democratic way of life, presupposes free public education over a long period; it presupposes also an education for personal responsibility that too often is neglected.

    • Eleanor Roosevelt,
    • "Let Us Have Faith in Democracy," in Department of Agriculture, Land Policy Review ()
  • Democracy cannot be static. Whatever is static is dead.

    • Eleanor Roosevelt,
    • "Let Us Have Faith in Democracy," in Department of Agriculture, Land Policy Review ()
  • One of the first things we must get rid of is the idea that democracy is tantamount to capitalism.

  • All political institutions are manifestations and materializations of power; they petrify and decay as soon as the living power of the people ceases to uphold them.

  • Democracy forever teases us with the contrast between its ideals and its realities, between its heroic possibilities and its sorry achievements.

  • Even if their outward fortunes could be absolutely equalized, there would be, from individual constitution alone, an aristocracy and a democracy in every land. The fearful by nature would compose an aristocracy, the hopeful by nature a democracy, were all other causes of divergence done away.

  • Small use it will be to save democracy for the race if we cannot save the race for democracy.

    • Jeannette Rankin,
    • speech to the U.S. House (1917), in Hannah Josephson, Jeannette Rankin: First Lady in Congress ()
  • When we define democracy now it must still be as a thing hoped for but not seen.

  • We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • "Address to the Jury" (1917), in Alix Kates Shulman, ed., Red Emma Speaks ()
  • Like playing the slots in Vegas, there is just enough of a payoff in democracy to keep us coming back for more.

  • ... democracy is that which affords a rule of living as well as a test of faith.

  • Democracy is the best revenge.

  • The idea of self-government is foreign to Americans. ... Self-government is a form of self-control, self-limitation. It goes against our whole grain. We're supposed to go after what we want, not question whether we really need it.

  • ... laughter, that distinctively human emotion, laughter which springs from trust in the other, from willingness to put oneself momentarily in the other's place, even at one's own expense, is the special emotional basis of democratic procedures, just as pride is the emotion of an aristocracy, shame of a crowd that rules, and fear of a police state.

  • The capacity to combine commitment with skepticism is essential to democracy.

  • Democracy in the contemporary world demands, among other things, an educated and informed people.

  • For no country is a true democracy whose women have not an equal share in life with men, and until we realize this we shall never achieve a real democracy on this earth.

  • Change in a democracy can be brought about quickly or slowly. The speed depends on its people's honesty of mind, their values, their humility and knowledge and insight; and, above all else, on the will to act, once they realize the need for action.

  • [As author of a biography on Abraham Lincoln:] The more people who knew about Lincoln, the more chance democracy had to destroy its two chief enemies, privilege and militancy.

  • ... democracy is dying. We are ruled by faceless bureaucrats and lecherous puritans. ... You think about it. 'All right for me but not for you' is their philosophy.

  • The importance of the ordinary citizen is very greatly underestimated — not so much by those in authority as by the ordinary citizen himself.

    • Jan Struther,
    • "Democracy Begins at Home," A Pocketful of Pebbles ()
  • The weakness from which democracy — the government of the people — suffers is a weakness of definition. What are 'the people'? The answer, thoughtfully given, is of course that they are the whole of society (not merely one class — a common error this), but — and this is more important — that they are a great number of separate entities, each one having a separate birth and death and an astonishingly large number of quite peculiar characteristics. ... Our narrow imaginations cannot conceive of the mass in terms of individuals, and the first effect of giving every man his right to a say in his political fate has been the removal from him of his identity as a man. He becomes a party-member, a worker, an Aryan or what you will.

  • Democracy, like the human organism, carries within it the seed of its own destruction.

  • Democracy is not an easy form of government, because it is never final; it is a living, changing organism, with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order.

  • ... democracy always makes for materialism, because the only kind of equality that you can guarantee to a whole people is, broadly speaking, physical.

  • To view opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy. To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.

  • ... democracy ... begins from the ground up. Anything living grows from the bottom up. Everything dangerous, like bombs, gets dropped from the sky down.

  • Democracy, like any noncoercive relationship, rests on a shared understanding of limits.

  • ... a democratic home is the foundation of a democratic state.

  • But after all, democracy may not be the last word in government. It's a good system. Theoretically I consider it the best. Whether it will work indefinitely, remains to be seen. It's a great political experiment. The whole world had to try it. But it may want later on to try another.

  • A democracy depends on the full integration of women into society, especially on seeing to it that they have equal access to the same tools of opportunity as men.

  • ... democracy ... is never won but always to be won ...

  • I am still baffled by those who feel that criticizing America is unpatriotic, a view increasingly being adopted in the United States since 9/11 as an excuse to render suspect what has always been an American right. An active, brave, outspoken (and heard) citizenry is essential to a healthy democracy.

  • We have forgotten that democracy must live as it thinks and think as it lives.

  • Every private citizen has a public responsibility.

  • A democracy without faith is just a machine without power. Nothing can make it function except faith in itself, in the ordinary man and woman.

  • ... democracy ... is not something that occurs overnight. It is not a gift delivered on a golden tray. Democracy is a long process of fighting, challenging accepted ideas, and perpetually striving for freedom. Like a seed that has to be watered every day to become a flower, democracy needs constant attention and care.

    • Shirin Ebadi,
    • "The Pillars of Peace," in Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now ()
  • Democracy is not a spectator sport.

  • Democracy cannot sustain itself amid a high degree of violence.

  • ... it's possible to go faster than folk are ready for; that's the key to democracy ...

  • Democracy cannot long survive when the people permit their lives to be dominated — economically or politically — by a powerful few.

  • I believe that freedom of speech should not be so abused by some that it is not exercised by others because of fear and smear. But I do believe that we should not permit tolerance to degenerate into indifference. I believe that people should never get so indifferent, cynical and sophisticated that they don't get shocked into action. I believe that we should not forget how to disagree agreeably and how to criticize constructively. I believe with all my heart that we must not become a nation of mental mutes blindly following demagogues. I believe that in our constant search for security we can never gain any peace of mind until we secure our own soul.

  • What keeps the democracy alive at all but the hatred of excellence; the desire of the base to see no head higher than their own?

  • It is said that democracy is not something we have, but something we do. But right now, we cannot do it because we cannot speak. We are shouted down by the bullhorns of big money. It is money with no manners for democracy, and it must be escorted from the room. While wealth has always influenced our politics, what is new is the increasing concentration of wealth and the widening divide between the political interests of the common people and the political interests of the very wealthy who are now able to buy our willing leaders wholesale. ... What villainy allows this political condition?The twin viral ideas that money is speech and that corporations are people. If money is speech, then those with more money have more speech, and that idea is antithetical to a democracy that cherishes political fairness. It makes us no longer equal citizens.

    • Doris Haddock,
    • with Dennis Burke, Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year ()
  • ... democracy is a lifestyle, not a fringe benefit of paying your taxes.

    • Doris Haddock,
    • "Democracy Is a Lifestyle," in Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now ()
  • Trusting each other is the beginning of a certain secular faith, a faith that allows us to live in families and communities and nations. Democracy, above all other forms of government, requires this faith ...

  • You can't have a working democracy where people are starving. Hunger breeds desperation; desperation breeds violence; violence breeds a police state.

  • You cannot have a democracy without an informed people.

    • Helen Thomas,
    • in Elizabeth DiNovella interview, Progressive ()
  • A democratic state is not proven by the welfare of the strong but by the welfare of the weak.

    • June Jordan,
    • "For the Sake of a People's Poetry," Passion ()
  • Dissent is essential to democracy, although those who practice it are often accused of being unpatriotic. The idea that patriotism demands passivity and obedience, a following of orders as though citizenship is a form of military service, or as if the state is a church and citizens are required to embrace an unexamined faith, or at least act as though they do, contradicts democratic principles and is out of sync with the structure of our government, which accommodates and even demands debate, and which consists of a system of checks and balances to ensure that power is never absolute. Dissent truly is patriotism in action.

  • Democracy is an insecure landscape.

    • Terry Tempest Williams,
    • "The Open Space of Democracy," in Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now ()
  • If Democracy should fail, it would be because we had been so lacking in self-discipline that our personal problems had taken all our substance and energies, leaving us nothing of value to contribute to the commonwealth.

  • Decision-making is a basic part of education for life in a democracy. It calls for practice.

  • [On the northeastern Native tribes:] ... the woman owns her horses, dogs, and all the lodge equipment; children own their own articles; and parents do not control the possessions of their children ... A wife is as independent as the most independent man in our midst.

    • Alice Fletcher,
    • 1888, in Wilma Mankiller, Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women ()
  • Real democracy means that no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else.

  • Democracy is just something you must do every day, like brushing your teeth.