As an independent-minded voter, I have been asking myself questions about what makes a sound and fair political system. How do we achieve good governance? What are the principles that underpin our Constitution? And which ideology can support a dynamic, evolving democracy? This line of questioning led me back to the birth of the United States, the world’s first modern republic. As I read up on our founders, from George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, it struck me what was missing from today’s political discourse: the individual.

For a government to be a democracy, it must derive its power from individual citizens—not the other way around. Hence, the single most important role that a democratic government must play is to ensure the rights of all its citizens, so they can exert their will over the laws of the nation and challenge them whenever necessary. Naturally, this dynamic can only hold true when political power emanates from the people. Any party or entity that seeks to diminish or disrupt this symbiotic relationship will inherently be at odds with democracy.

America’s founders clearly expressed these thoughts in the Declaration of Independence, when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

With these words as my starting point, I have undertaken the task of laying out the Principles underlying democratic government. The goal is to shed light on what forces are shaping our system and where we have diverged from our founders’ vision. I believe that in today’s world, it’s more important than ever to reevaluate our political system and return to the fundamental principles that guarantee the right of all people to self-determination.

Steven Hoffman (Captain Hoff)