About American Democracy in Peril
American Democracy in Peril aims to inspire thoughtful citizens, including college students, to think critically about how our political institutions and processes measure up to the ideals of democracy. We Americans tend to be frighteningly complacent about democracy--we assume that as long as periodic elections are held, democracy has been achieved. Most citizens remain complacent about democracy even while they are skeptical about government effectiveness. This book seeks to shake up this complacency by showing how current political practices not only fail to achieve democratic ideals but may themselves constitute threats to democracy’s very existence. Contemporary American democracy is in peril because too few Americans understand the challenges it faces.
The book examines this peril in terms of eight specific challenges to democratic ideals: the separation of powers, the imperial judiciary, radical individualism, inadequate citizen participation, undemocratic elections, business privilege, economic inequality, and the national security state. Empirical data and analysis are provided to document the institutions and processes connected to each challenge. In light of this analysis, questions are raised about the extent to which democratic ideals are and are not met. For every challenge, specific recommendations are presented that would bring our political practices more in line with democratic ideals.