Alexis de Tocqueville distills the lesson of the fourth chapter of Democracy in America with his usual epigrammatic power:
The people rule the American political world as God rules the universe. They are the cause and end of all things; everything arises from them and everything is absorbed by them.
What Tocqueville found remarkable in 1830s America was that the “principle of the sovereignty of the people” was neither “hidden” nor “sterile.” Rather, contrary to practice in the rest of the world, “it is recognized by the mores, proclaimed by the laws; it spreads freely and reaches its fullest consequences without obstacles.”
Could an impartial observer say the same today?