Unabashed white supremacy, rising nationalism, and creeping fascism. Russian hacking and fake news. The manipulability of the attention economy. The threat of nuclear war.

All of these are reasons to believe that democracy is under global threat. But is it?

Yes, what we call “Big D” Democracy—i.e. the institutions of our representative democratic systems—is genuinely threatened by vote tampering, voter suppression, election rigging, propaganda, incitement, and violence. As a result, these times feel full of doubt and unease. However, this moment is also full of potential. It’s ripe with lessons on how to design a true rule of the people, by the people. We have the chance, right now, to craft “small d” democracy that extends far beyond our limited institutions of representative government. We have the chance to live democracy—not just live in one.

It is precisely because of our collective...

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