The Editors
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For more than 200 years, the United States of America has been a beacon to the world, and American citizenship has been highly prized. That a government should be of the people, by the people, for the people was an ideal that inspired men and women all over the world. Generations of immigrants proudly took the oath of allegiance, making them citizens. In 2005, more than 600,000 immigrants became naturalized Americans. This Independence Day thousands more will take the oath. Around the world, however, the appeal of the American ideal has declined dramatically. Where a few years ago foreigners distinguished between their dislike for the policies of the current administration and their admiration for our country, today they hold American-style democracy in low esteem. Once a model to emulate, as Michael Ignatieff has written, it has become an example to avoid.

In their recent book, America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked, the pollsters Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes report that between 2000 and 2005 there was a significant decline in foreigners admiration for the United States. In 2000, 83 percent of Britons expressed a favorable attitude toward the United States; in 2005 the figure had dropped to 55 percent. In Germany, long a beneficiary of U.S. outreach, the numbers dropped from 78 percent to 41 percent. In Turkey, another cold war ally, the figures were 52 percent and 23 percent respectively. The invasion of Iraq, the war against terror and U.S. unilateralism were certainly occasions for this widespread disfavor, but these developments disclosed deeper antipathy about U.S. institutions and the American character. One of the most surprising is skepticism about American democracy itself.

For many, the effort to impose democracy by force in the Middle East quite properly awakened suspicions of hypocrisy. But according to the two researchers, criticism of American democracy goes deeper. Respondents question the role of money in American politics; they look down on attack advertisements, and they are perplexed by the court-refereed outcome of the 2000 elections. Clearly even countries with longstanding democratic traditions, like Britain and France, have different democratic styles, so they may not be best situated to judge the American performance. Still, when criticism is so widespread, only an unrepentant chauvinist will deny that self-examination is necessary. As Donald W. Shriver contends in Honest Patriots:Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds, genuine love of country requires a critical spirit that is honest about our countrys faults and, when necessary, ready to confess its sins.

Critics do well to point out the power of money in our political system. We are currently engaged in the longest and, at current estimates, the most expensive presidential campaign ever waged. Even though some argue that the Internet may diminish the need for costly television ads, the leading candidates are raising money at an alarming rate. The accelerated primary election calendar demands large campaign staffs, making the candidates less responsive to regional and local issues and generally more scripted. The press continues to do gotcha reporting, focusing on trivial issues like haircuts and old stories like a vast right-wing conspiracy. It builds up candidates for their celebrity appeal and then delights in bringing them down. The basic issue of the election, everyone knows, is the war in Iraq. Yet the choice is simplistically defined: withdraw U.S. troops or not. The complexities go unexplored.

The forces marshaled today against democratic revival in the United States are enormous: big money to feed campaigns and a Supreme Court that opposes campaign finance reform by equating money with free speech, a conflation of news and entertainment enforced by mammoth corporations and the diminishment of hard news in a culture compulsively amusing itself to death. But there is reason to think these obstacles can be overcome, that the people can do better than their institutions.

In the 2004 election, 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, the highest number in years; and on many other indicators of democratic participationsigning petitions, joining boycotts and demonstrationsAmericans score higher than Europeans. Vigorous citizen participation in the current campaign would go a long way to revive democratic government and regain the worlds respect. Of course, that will depend, as in the old days, on getting greater access to the candidates, or at least to their state and local campaign chiefs, their major backers and endorsers. Independence Day 2007 should be an occasion for citizens to begin to reclaim government of the people, by the people, for the people from the forces that threaten to capture and corrupt it.

Comments

BrettJ | 7/4/2007 - 9:37pm
The problem is the media domination of the process and American foreign policy that is entangled with nations that do not have our national interests at heart - esp in the Middle East. The time for withdrawel is now and we need to focus on rebuilding our democracy and borders before that of any other nation. Ron Paul is a true conservative and the ONLY pro-life, pro individual rights, peace candidate of any party. Please google Ron Paul! Time to take our country back from foreign special interests, think tanks and corporate lobbies.
BrettJ | 7/4/2007 - 9:37pm
The problem is the media domiation of the process and American foreign policy that is entangled with nations that do not have our national interests at heart - esp in the Middle East. The time for withdrawl is now and we need to focus on rebuilding our democracy and borders before that of any other nation. Ron Paul is a true conservative and the ONLY pro-life, pro individual rights, peace candidate of any party. Please google Ron Paul! Time to take our country back from foreign special interests, think tanks, and corporate lobbies.
John Braun | 7/1/2007 - 3:48pm
That was really idiotic. We never were a democracy, and to base our mea culpa on what the rest of the world--the editors I think have primarily in mind Europe--thinks about us is a current trend in the media, but it's also stupid.
james alamas | 6/30/2007 - 8:11pm
All of what you write is relevant and true, however you follow the shallow patterns that come before you. You quote figures, spout conjecture but appear to have a great fear of writing the about the germ, the root cause, you only hype about symtoms. I have followed your magazine for many years and you appear to me to have strayed from the core of Catholicism for a long time. James T. Calamas
Keyran Moran | 6/24/2007 - 2:03am
The plutocrats are clearly corrupting the democratic process, but the greater danger lies with the ideologues. The Israeli Lobby is by far the greatest danger to the freedom of expression and the freedom of members of congress to represent their constituents. Betty McCollum,a House member, wanted to vote for the Catholic bishops' proposal on Palestine, a less draconian version of the AIPAC proposal. But the Israeli Lobby said that if she voted that way, it would label her a
Keyran Moran | 6/24/2007 - 12:24am
The plutocrats are clearly corrupting the democratic process, but the greater danger lies with the ideologues. The Israeli Lobby is by far the greatest danger to the freedom of expression and the freedom of members of congress to represent their constituents. Betty McCollum,a House member, wanted to vote for the Catholic bishops' proposal on Palestine, a less draconian version of the AIPAC proposal. But the Israeli Lobby said that if she so voted that way, it would label her a
Keyran Moran | 6/24/2007 - 12:03am
The unregulated plutocrats that are corrupting the congress are clearly one part of the problem, but why have you forgotten a far greater subverter of our liberties, the ideologues. The Israeli Lobby has paralyzed all attempts to keep the USA an honest broker in Palestine and is the principal drum-beater for the Iraq war, to name just one. Recently Betty McCollum, a House member from Minnesota and a Catholic wanted to vote for the Catholic bishops proposal, a less draconian measure against Hamas, but she was bullied by AIPAC which labelled her vote
LEO JORDAN | 6/22/2007 - 7:51pm
What a
ROBERT MCNULTY | 6/22/2007 - 4:16pm
Be of good cheer. Do not treat a survey as Gospel, instead look on the bright side. This is still the last best hope of earth, as shown by the numbers who have thronged to become citizens of this great republic. One cannot say that the new leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany are anti-American. Quite pointedly they are pro-American and since they are freely elected, we can assume they represent the majority of their peoples. Finally, when the chips are down, they are aware of Russia's restless stirring and China's emergence as a superpower dictatorship. They know who protects them from these threats
ROBERT MCNULTY | 6/22/2007 - 4:15pm
Be of good cheer. Do not treat a survey as Gospel, instead look on the bright side. This is still the last best hope of earth, as shown by the numbers who have thronged to become citizens of this great republic.Many moire woukd if they could get visas. One cannot say that the new leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany are anti-American. Quite pointedly they are pro-American and since they are freely elected, we can assume they represent the majority of their peoples. Finally, when the chips are down, they are aware of Russia's restless stirring and China's emergence as a superpower dictatorship. They know who protects them from these threats
ROBERT MCNULTY | 6/22/2007 - 4:14pm
Be of good cheer. Do not treat a survey as Gospel, instead look on the bright side. This is still the last best hope of earth, as shown by the numbers who have thronged to become citizens of this great republic.Many moire woukd if they could get visas. One cannot say that the new leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany are anti-American. Quite pointedly they are pro-American and since they are freely elected, we can assume they represent the majority of their peoples. Finally, when the chips are down, they are aware of Russia's restless stirring and China's emergence as a superpower dictatorship. They know who protects them from these threats
ROBERT MCNULTY | 6/22/2007 - 4:13pm
Be of good cheer. Do not treat a survey as Gospel, instead look on the bright side. This is still the last best hope of earth, as shown by the numbers who have thronged to become citizens of this great republic.Many moire woukd if they could get visas. One cannot say that the new leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany are anti-American. Quite pointedly they are pro-American and since they are freely elected, we can assume they represent the majority of their peoples. Finally, when the chips are down, they are aware of Russia's restless stirring and China's emergence as a superpower dictatorship. They know who protects them from these threats

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