My own belief is that the recognition of the humanity of everyone is the core starting point for democracy – the people rule. But to get from such a start to a practicing democracy requires the education and participation of all. Only continuous conversation and engagement by each person can get us there.
But something is in the way. Education has turned from a broad liberal goal to an ensemble of skills, sometimes called human capital (what is a person worth to the company that pays them?). Participation has shifted from conversation about crucial issues to purchases in the consumer world. We think much more about what to do with our dollars in an increasingly rich market of possibilities than we do about our vote and making sure we get to vote for what we care about.
The serious reason to have democracy is because it requires the development of all the people. Development that gives them the education, exposure, experience to be wise about their vote and their conversations. I like to call this the democracy project, and it has just begun. Society has been controlled by elites trying to hold their societies together but taking too much for themselves. If we see the relationship between full participation, the ned for education, the capacity to participate in conversations, we will do more t support the development of democracy.
Indeed the collapse of democracy to mere voting is a serious reduction in scope from a world where participation and conversation culminate in the voting rather than voting replaced by the conversational culture of community participation and urgency.