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The Lab of Democracy

By Luke Hughes

March 20, 2024

In Response to Against All Odds

In her essay “Against All Odds,” Ece Temelkuran writes, “After all, a democracy faithful to social justice is still the only option for humanity to save the fundamental moral values and the planet.”

Temelkuran has reason to be hopeful. Democracies in the Global West and Global North are taking steps to correct destructive political habits and chart a forward-looking course for the winding road ahead. And the innate human drive, determination, and desire for making sense of the setbacks is the shining light towards the bright future.

I think that reducing democracies in the United States and other Western countries to lost hopes, falling into the abyss of fascism, is a slippery slope. Although a somewhat disheartening reality, it is human nature to make a mistake and learn from it. Human history has proven that only the best ideas succeed, and the others are left to the waste side. Out of these processes of trial and error are where said “fundamental moral values” emerge. And as the scientists behind this experiment that is American democracy, humans are fortunate enough to learn, grow, and improve alongside one another. It is only with a majority firmly grounded in its fundamental morals can a volatile minority be resisted.

However, this is not to sugarcoat the ambitions and agendas of far-right and far-left extremists as simply partners participating in this lab called democracy. Hyper-partisanship is a breeding ground for fascism. Still, democracies thrive when, as referenced prior, humans identify the politics that work best for them. For some, this may be a quick process, but for others a challenging journey. A “democracy faithful to social justice” is one that makes a committed effort to understand the human experience. These unique human experiences, the formation of one’s unique beliefs and values combined with how they wish to see these executed in daily politics, are central to how we interact in society. Investigating this matter provides an explanation for why democracy has the characteristics that it does, why some movements have failed, and others succeeded, and what issues are at the forefront of an everyday citizen’s mind. “Social justice” is simply the effort to understand and appreciate the differences and similarities among the human experience.

So, I encourage those patient scientists to accept the tedious experiment that democracy is and can be. There is reason to be hopeful. Innovative methods are the way to a better solution.

Luke Hughes (SFS’27) is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.