The nation’s view of our democracy has always been a unique contradiction of cheering, wailing and disinterest. The shining city on the hill is also a swampy snake pit. The world’s greatest deliberative body is hopelessly corrupt, and the land of opportunity is completely rigged. While opinions vary, the dominant sentiment these days is understandably bleak. According to a recent bipartisan poll, half the country believes we are in “real danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country,” and over two-thirds of respondents believe democracy is growing weaker by the day. The more optimistic view points to the numerous crises we’ve weathered over the past two centuries and maintains an abiding belief that the structure of the democracy is essentially self-correcting. Public sentiments careen left, right, bold, fearful, populist, elitist, inclusive and uncharitable, yet somehow our democratic society serves as ballast that keeps us afloat despite churning seas.
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