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The Meaning of Democracy

October 6, 2019

In 1943, during World War II, the Writers’ War Board in Washington wrote to the New Yorker Magazine asking for a statement on The Meaning of Democracy. This was E. B. White’s reply in the July 3, 1943, issue of the New Yorker.

“Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don’t in don’t shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right, more than half the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths; the feeling of communion in libraries; the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is the letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea that hasn’t been disproved yet; a song, the words of which have not gone bad. It is the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board – in the middle of the morning – in the middle of a war – wanting to know what democracy is.”

Quoted in Franklin and Winston – An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, by John Meacham, 2004, p. 368.

Loren Bullock
October 6, 2019

From → Beliefs, Democracy

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