Democracy will not save itself. As Americans, we must save it ourselves.

When we look back at the hearings held by the House Committee on January 6th and better understand the horror of that day, we are painfully aware of the fragility of our democracy, and how close we came to losing it. are It is extremely important that we understand our recent history, because those who don’t are able to repeat it

It is equally important that all those who committed crimes – including the former president – face the legal consequences of their actions. No one is above the law.

While understanding history and holding people accountable is important, neither helps rebuild our democracy. Both will only prevent further damage.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, our democracy has been teetering on the edge for years. The January 6 uprising was a public manifestation of the damage accumulated as a result of our polarizing media and political culture.

The questions I am asking are: How do we begin to rebuild democracy? How can we rebuild trust in each other, in our government, and in our electoral process?

There is no easy or foolproof way, but I suggest three ideas that can help bind us together.

Voting, election, national service

First, we should make voting compulsory for everyone aged 18 and over, as in Australia, where I lived for four years. Failure to vote will result in a fine. Democracies, as messy as they are, can only thrive if the people participate.

In the US, one-third of voting-age people did not vote in the 2020 presidential election — and it was still the highest turnout in our history. Here in Chicago, two-thirds of people of voting age did not vote in the last mayoral election. How can we hold elected officials accountable to all of us if so many of us don’t vote? How do we hold elected officials accountable for their actions if we opt out of this process?

Second, because many legislative and congressional districts across the country are rendered meaningless or simply lean heavily Democratic or Republican, many general elections are meaningless. Whoever wins the dominant party’s primary is essentially guaranteed victory in the general election. In addition, this situation often forces candidates to campaign on the extreme wing of their party rather than the center.

So, instead of always having a Republican and a Democrat face off in the general election, what if it was the two top vote-getters from either party in the primary? These two high-profile candidates will have to compete for every vote in their district to win the election, rather than appease the extreme fringes of their base.

General elections will be more competitive, candidates will have to broaden their appeal, and all voters will know that their vote counts.

Finally, we can rebuild trust and see our shared humanity by requiring two years of national service for everyone aged 18 to 25. When we serve our nation together, and when we sweat and work together, we form bonds that can last a lifetime. While we understand and embrace our diversity, we also need to recognize our collective strengths and common interests.

By national service I don’t just mean in the military, although that is certainly an option. It could also mean tutoring in low-income communities, caring for our senior citizens, rebuilding roads and bridges, caring for our environment, strengthening our public health systems, feeding the hungry, Housing the homeless, reducing gun violence, etc.

Collective responsibility

I served seven years in D.C. I worked with people on both sides of the aisle. I developed personal relationships with nearly all 50 governors, including some very conservative ones who were politically opposed to the president I served. Today, cooperation across party lines is often seen as a sign of weakness, or even betrayal.

Today, 70 percent of Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen. Countless people sworn to protect the Constitution openly tell this lie to maintain political power. The real threat to our democracy is plain to see, and unless we, the people, do something differently, the threat will only grow over time.

We live in troubled times, where issues like climate change, terrorism, economic injustice and war threaten democracies here and around the world. Now more than ever, Americans must reaffirm our commitment to the principles and practices of democracy.

Our responsibility, and our opportunity, is not just to defend democracy as we know it, but to recreate it for the future and help it grow stronger and deeper. It starts with each of us.

No one else can save us. We have to protect ourselves and each other.

Arne Duncan served as the US Secretary of Education from 2009 to 2015. He is currently a partner with the Emerson Collective and the founder of Chicago CRED, which works to reduce gun violence.

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