Dec 4, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Obama way behind the curve on democracy

Around the world, we are witnessing new and ambitious strategies to advance democracy.  The European Union recently released the EU Agenda for Action on Democracy Support.  The strategy boldly states that, “everyone has the right to take part in government” and that “democracy has evolved into a universal value.”  The Government of Canada has announced it will set up a new democracy assistance organization, the Canadian Centre for Advancing Democracy.  The UN Democracy Fund has just announced its fourth round of funding.  And what of the Obama administration?  Entrepreneurship, Science and Technology, and Education.  (sigh)  These things are fine, but the fall far short of affirming that democracy is a universal value.

President Obama uses stirring rhetoric on democracy, such as his recent speech on Afghanistan at West Point:

…we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom and justice and opportunity and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.

Sorry Mr. President, the road to freedom, justice, and opportunity is not through entrepreneurship, science and technology, and education.  It’s through democracy.  Speaking out on behalf of entrepreneurship, science and technology, and education doesn’t bring moral authority.  Standing up for democracy brings moral authority.  I expect that the Obama administration will eventually come around to supporting democracy more forthrightly.  Until they do, I will pound away at them on it.  After all, it’s my right in a democracy.

Michael Allen at Democracy Digest has more.


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Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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