cover image Why the People: The Case for Democracy

Why the People: The Case for Democracy

Beka Feathers and Ally Shwed. First Second, $28.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-76070-8

Another excellent addition from Feathers (RE: Constitutions) to the World Citizen Comics line leavens an earnest explainer of democratic governance with enough silliness to make it go down smoothly. Feathers grounds the conceit in the angsty American political moment. Her two female characters—a young white Wisconsinite and a middle-aged Californian daughter of Chinese immigrants—kill time at an airport answering a big, rarely asked question: “What kind of government is the best?” A couple hundred pages later, Feathers has made the case for democracy by astutely and amusingly breaking down alternates. Sidestepping ideological and economic arrangements (there’s no communism vs. capitalism debate), she employs historical storytelling using robust examples, with friendly, accessible drawings by Shwed (Fault Lines in the Constitution). Saudi Arabia’s modern history showcases the push-pull between royals and reformers in aristocracies, while another section briskly illuminates varieties of “rule with just a few”: oligarchy, warlordism, aristocracy, and theocracy. Idi Amin’s dominance over Uganda illustrates the destructive forces by dictatorships. The final third of the book is given over to a granular, informative look at how democracy actually functions. Feathers lays out the potential for democratic bad (limitations on voting, threats of populism, corruption) with the good (people governing together by agreeing to shared principles). It’s a buoyant but clear-eyed addition to this useful series. (June)