Sanford Levinson When holding a "town meeting" during a visit to Strasbourg early in his term of office, President Obama told a German student, "We spend so much time talking about democracy--and obviously we should be promoting democracy everywhere we can."1 One might, of course, write a full essay about the extent to which we should or, perhaps more to the point, can, promote democracy throughout the world, but that is not my concern in this essay. Instead, I take it as a given that most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, broadly support such a commitment, even if there might be differences of opinion over the limits suggested by the "we can" at the end. If "ought implies can," after all, then perceptions of practical possibility might well temper the enthusiasm for what I would label the international "democracy project" conducted by American presidents, with various degrees of enthusiasm, at least since Woodrow Wilson (and domestically by their predecessors going back most famously to Abraham Lincoln). The obvious issue presented by the "democracy project," whether foreign or domestic, is what counts as its achievement. If, as is patently the case, "democracy" is a model example of what political
The Good Society – Penn State University Press
Published: Jul 22, 2010
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