democracy

Democracy means, more or less, a system of government where everybody gets a vote, and nobody’s vote counts for more than anyone else’s.

But when you hear the word “democracy” (at least in the United States), usually the word “threat” is breathing down its neck. A threat to democracy.

Here are some things that have been called threats to democracy: Drugs, Christians, unemployment, liberal bias, conservative bias, and poverty. This is not a complete list.

But really, only one thing is a threat to democracy. Taking away people’s right to vote — and the assurance that their vote counts just as much as a rich guy’s vote or a vote from someone who owns 500 assault rifles — is the only thing that can make a democracy not a democracy.

Poverty is terrible. Unemployment is no good, either. Drugs and druglords mess up people’s lives sometimes but rarely show up at the polling place to make sure their victims don’t vote. Christians are just like any other group of people in that they can’t stop anyone from voting. Biases in the news are inevitable, and they can definitely influence public opinion, but they can’t make people not vote.

The reason people are always fretting about democracy’s safety even when they are talking about things that have nothing to do with democracy is that they know how important democracy is to the rest of us. They want us to confuse our fear of living in a place where we have no say over what happens with their fear of drugs/Christians/whatever.

Sometimes it’s easier to scare people into taking your side than it is to come up with a real argument.