Jennifer Mercieca guest blog

10 Democracy Defending Practices

Excerpts from an article by Jennifer Mercierca – The Editorial Board, March 2, 2022

Jennifer Mercieca is a historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University and the author of Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.

Here are 10 democracy defending practices that you can do today to help to defend our democracy.

1. Build trust between different sectors of society and different factions. Democracy thrives with bridge-building; it erodes with distrust and cynicism.

2. Use whatever power you have, in whatever spheres of influence you are in, to ask one question, “are we doing enough to defend democracy?”

3. Spread good information, online and off. Support those who are generating and distributing good information (researchers, teachers, media, librarians). Consider establishing a little free library.

4. Support institutions, especially communal ones like parks, libraries, food banks and schools. Support places where people connect.

5. Call people in, not out. We tend to shame those with whom we disagree, but authoritarians thrive with alienation. Shaming and shunning will drive people toward authoritarians. Call them in, befriend them. Build bridges. Bridges strengthen democracy.

6. Give money, time and attention to pro-democracy politicians, organizations, institutions, and movements. Look for groups already working to support democracy.

7. Democracy is everybody. Everybody. Check your skepticism of people not like you. Work on that. We need all of us.

8. Go out in public as a democracy defender. Talk about democracy with people. Show up to events, hearings, etc., as a democrat. Join a march. Make being pro-democracy a thing people know about you and associate with you.

9. Communicate as a democrat. That means using persuasion, not compliance-gaining strategies. That means being open to new information, perspectives, values. It means being inclusive, not exclusive. Democracy is a way of life – a way of thinking and communicating.

10. Finally, do not be cynical. Do not defeat democracy with your cynicism. Block or mute cynical people/accounts. Cynicism is not useful for a pro-democracy movement. Hope is necessary. 

Democracy isn’t just defended with tanks. Democracy is a way of life as well as a method of politics. The authoritarian plan is to sow division, to exploit distrust, polarization and frustration. 

Authoritarians love cynicism. We have to normalize democratic hope. 

The political project of our time is to defend democracy.

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