Many of CIPE’s U.S.-based staff will be voting today in the closely-watched presidential election, as well as for their national, state, and local, representatives. Voting is a cherished and fundamental right essential to democracy. However, it is important to remember that the democratic process does not start on election day, nor does it end once the ballots have been counted.
Most of democracy is about what happens between elections. Many Americans complain about negative campaigning or the sheer volume of the advertising blitz in swing states, but thanks to a vibrant media (including the Internet and a 24 hour news cycle) American voters have no shortage of information about the candidates and their policy proposals — essential information both for making a choice on election day and for holding elected officials accountable once they are in office. That’s why CIPE supports partner organizations to advocate for political parties and candidates to release their policy proposals during campaigns, meet with important stakeholders, and debate their positions in public before the election.
Whichever candidates win today, Americans can be sure that their actions will be closely watched and they will be held to account for the promises they’ve made. Their policy proposals will be thoroughly analysed by think tanks, business associations, labor unions, nonprofit organizations, and academics, and dissected and debated in the media, online, and between friends and family members. Civil society groups will advocate for and against those policies that affect the people they represent, and elected representatives will be made to publicly explain their decisions.
This is the “infrastructure of democracy” — the rights, laws, institutions, and organizations that allow a democratic society to function. It can be messy at times, and the system is always in need of improvement. But whether sitting through the same campaign advertisement for the 100th time, standing in line for hours in the cold to cast a ballot, or listening to a pundit we disagree with on TV, we know that despite all its minor inconveniences what Winston Churchill said in 1947 still holds true: “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.“