To maintain a democratic system, we must do more than vote in elections from time to time.
For democracy to flourish, our First Amendment rights must be zealously guarded. As Frederick Douglass said in his 1860 Plea for Free Speech
Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power.
To maintain that power for the people, law enforcement agencies must be prevented from collecting information about our political and religious views, associations, or activities, unless that information directly relates to an investigation that is based on reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. If we abandon this standard, our First Amendment rights – including the right to assemble with like-minded people, the right to protest government activity, and the right to freedom of workshop – will be dangerously chilled.
A functioning democracy depends on the civic engagement of a well-informed people who have access to accurate information about what the government is doing in their name. Transparency and accountability are essential to the workings of democracy. Excessive secrecy is the breeding ground for corruption and the abuse of power.
In the words of Judge Damon Keith, “Democracy dies behind closed doors.”