Testing the Democratic Experiment


Reading through Francis Fukuyama’s book, Liberalism and Its Discontents, I found it more timely than I expected, given the running test – almost daily – of our democratic experiment. What keeps it alive, with promise, despite the noise from extremes right and left, is respect for law, for election outcomes, for a system that checks itself based on facts — all still in play though weakened.

One passage sums the attacks on liberal (in the classic sense) principles in Hungary, Poland, Brazil, Turkey, and arguably Donald Trump’s America:

“These include the courts and justice system, nonpartisan state bureaucracies, independent media, and other bodies limiting executive power under a system of checks and balances. Orban [Hungary] has been quite successful in packing the courts with his supporters and bringing the bulk of Hungarian media under the control of his allies. Trump was less successful in his attempts to weaken institutions like the Justice Department, the intelligence community, the courts and the mainstream media, but his intention was much the same.”

The short lesson is that democracy doesn’t survive by itself. It needs rejuvenation, protection, enhancement, a decent education system, a knowledge of its history and in the end above all what I always scribble here — an informed citizenry. That latter is the perennial test of self-government. We are what we choose at ballot time. Why we have a Liz Cheney, an Obama, but also a Gaetz or Greene.

Mike James
Mike James
Mike James was a long-time anchor newscaster at KING TV.


  1. Thanks Mike for your reflection on the Francis Fukuyama. As you mention, an informed citizenry is critical for a healthy democracy. Your article brought to mind this powerful quote from civil rights icon John Lewis:
    “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.” Representative John Lewis, New York Times (2020).


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