The themes of democracy are succinctly summed up in the final phrase of the United States' Pledge of Allegiance: “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Democracy ensures that the ruling powers in government represent the people by allowing citizens to vote for their political leaders. This political ideology also protects individual rights and promotes equality for all.
Rule of Law
In a democracy, a set of laws, not a dictator, king or queen, group of aristocrats or elected president, govern the people. The rule of law protects individual freedoms and ensures all citizens are treated fairly and equally. A democratic form of government disallows discrimination and unlawful imprisonment. Taxation must be established by law. Citizens cannot be denied their freedoms without just cause and a fair, unbiased public hearing in a court of law.
Balance of Power
An important theme in a democracy is the balance of power. The balance of power ensures that there are checks and safeguards that limit each branch of government’s individual powers. In the United States, the federal government has three primary divisions: the executive branch, with an elected president; the legislative branch, made up of the Senate and House of Representatives; and the judicial branch, known as the Supreme Court. Each branch is interconnected and must remain accountable to the others to ensure there are no abuses of power.
A democracy establishes basic civil rights that the government and individual citizens cannot take away. In the U.S., citizens are guaranteed rights such as the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, protection against unlawful searches and seizures and a right to an impartial public trial if they are accused of a crime. These civil rights give citizens the freedom to pursue their own beliefs, values and goals and long as they don’t infringe on other’s rights or contradict enacted laws. Civil liberties allow people to form organizations, including trade unions, and protest government actions they deem unnecessary as long as they do so peacefully, without harming or endangering others.
Because a democracy is a form of government that is created by the people, for the people, a central theme is citizens' involvement in public affairs. They must research political candidates, read and vote for or against proposed laws and actively express their views on upcoming government decisions. Citizens should participate in political debates, elections and community meetings. Even though citizens have the responsibility to respect others, even if their views differ, assertive participation in civic affairs is the key to promoting social justice and ensuring civil liberties remain intact.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images