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The Democratic Cause

by Katherine Connell

Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, by Condoleezza Rice (Twelve, 458 pp., $35)

‘My family participated in the democratic process as if it mattered, even when, in substance, it didn’t,” Condoleezza Rice writes of growing up in the Jim Crow South. She attributes this to an “inexplicable faith.” It is a similar faith, and a hope, that she now holds out for the rest of the world — that there will someday come an opening for democracy in countries that might seem perpetually doomed to corruption, repression, war, and terrorism. And she still believes it is the job of the United States to promote and nourish such openings.

In some ways, the former secretary of state’s latest book comes at an inauspicious political moment. Much of the public is now more pessimistic about the prospects for democracy’s spreading abroad, and more skeptical of America’s ability to influence world events, than it was in the recent past. There are plenty of reasons for this shift in the national mood: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the rise of ISIS, the dashed hopes of the Arab Spring, the horrors in Syria, and so on.

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