We can often take our democracy were granted. It's been there for a long time and we think it will it will be there in the future as well. However, if we do not participate the type of democracy we will end up having will be a lot more unrepresentative and disenfranchising.
"Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education." Franklin D Roosevelt
I sometimes think that we are entering a dangerous time with our democracy. Whether this is because we are living increasingly busier lives, or because we think politics is just totally irrelevant, or even because we feel that politicians just don't listen to us. Or perhaps, it is because in a representative democracy we elect people to make the decisions for us.
The problem with these sentiments is that it is the start of a downward spiral where more and more decisions are made by fewer and fewer people. It is here we start to make the transition from democracy to oligarchy/technocracy and finally to autocracy. In these two latter scenarios the interests of the vested few take precedence over the interests of all.
Do we want Politicians or Representatives?
It is a shame that the people who we choose to represent us are now referred to as "politicians". And in fact that is what they have become with a lot of those negative connotations. If we want a representative democracy being we need to call the people we elect as "our representatives". By calling our elected officials "representatives" we might actually have a chance at holding them to account.
Voting is important, but democracy is more than voting. Democracy implies participation in the decision-making process. It does not necessarily mean that everyone has to be writing submissions or expressing an opinion on every decision that is to be made.
In complex or large democracies it is about ensuring there are sufficient and the varied structures and institutions to debate and carry the voice of the people. For example, this might be community or special interest groups. Whatever the channel or the means we need people to participate in order to ensure decisions are made in the interests of all.
Democracy doesn't come cheap. It does take time and it does take effort. A democracy is only a truly democracy when the decisions we make are informed by fact.