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Paul R. Pillar – The Fragility of American Democracy

Efforts to export American-style liberal democracy to foreign lands have bumped up against the fact that the successful working of such democracy depends on habits and attitudes that are rarer than most Americans think and that take a long time to develop. That is a reality encountered in places such as Iraq. The relevant attitudes are not only hard to develop but also easy to lose. And that is a reality we must face at home in the United States.

Prime among the habits and attitudes that make representative democracy work is the willingness to respect even the most disappointing electoral result and to yield power peacefully and willingly to one’s political opponents if that is what the tally of votes calls for. Such willingness is a recognition that the nation as a whole and the democratic process itself are more important than for any one party, ideology, or set of policy preferences to prevail.

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