A proposal for a nonprofit, nonpartisan, interactive center offering visitors to the nation's capital a practical understanding of the political system and their role in making it work.

Behind and Beyond the Headlines

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION will offer visitors to the nation's capital a practical look at how Washington works.  We will encourage and challenge people to analyze political messages, determine the interests at stake, and form their own informed opinions.

Political communication is happening all the time.  DEMOCRACY IN ACTION will organize and host timely exhibits consisting of original materials put out by key players in current debates.  It will provide context and perspective on:

Current political debates.  On issues ranging from health care to immigration, the center will gather and present materials put out by various interest groups and other organizations.

American elections.  At almost any time of the year elections are happening somewhere in the United States.  This section will focus on interesting races around the country.

Overseas elections.  Exhibits on key overseas elections will show how democracy is practiced in other countries.

Methods and techniques.  The techniques of political communication have become increasingly sophisticated in recent decades.  Exhibits will examine current practices in areas such as polling, data and analytics, and use of social media.

“I sometimes tell people if they want to understand their government, don't read the Constitution... read the Washington telephone directory, particularly the pages beginning 'National Association of.'” -- George Will


For Americans and for people from overseas Washington, DC means politics.

In 2015 the city hosted 21.3 million visitors (>) and the museums of the Smithsonian tallied 30.2 million visits (>).  Yet a typical tour of the monuments or even a trip to Congress provides these visitors with little understanding of how the world's greatest democracy actually works (or fails to work).

Through smart phones and other devices people today have access to unparalleled amounts of information.  However civic education has not kept pace, and many people feel disconnected from the politics.

Too many resources are spent on opinion taking.  Too few are devoted to helping people make sense of the blizzard of messages and news they face each day. 


Not a Museum, Not an Interest Group, Not a Think Tank...

The DEMOCRACY IN ACTION resource center will offer visitors a dynamic hands-on experience with democracy.  It will inspire people to think constructively about current issues and the political process and will show them tools they can use to participate more effectively when they return home.
  The exhibits and programming will present ideas and materials from across the political spectrum, challenging visitors to consider views other than their own.

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION is seen as an exhibit space and auditorium focused on democracy.  The aim is a lean, flexible entity that will leverage the resources of Washington, DC, hosting exhibits in coordination with other organizations and presenting speakers and films.

“Politics is just like everything else you do in life.  You either let things happen or you make things happen.” -- James Carville

How Can I Help?

Right now this is just an idea.  Input and support from professionals and citizens like you can make it a reality.  The first step for a couple of months to mid-2017 is determine if there is serious interest.  If you are someone who can help put together a feasibility study, identify possible funding sources, would be interested in serving on a board of advisors, or have other constructive input please contact me.

Another issue to be considered is a suitable location.  An ideal space would be on a ground floor in a building downtown convenient to passersby and tourist flows.  Perhaps a developer can be found who can provide in-kind or reduced rent use of such a space for a trial period of six months or a year.  The George Washington University could also be a good location.  A great but likely impossible location would be the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. 

After covering presidential campaigns since 1992 (online since 1998), I am thinking it is time to do something different.  The DEMOCRACY IN ACTION resource center is a proposal I came up with in the early 1990s, and I still think it is a good idea.  What do you think?  Please write, email or call with suggestions:

Eric M. Appleman
Democracy in Action
P.O. Box 19007
Washington, DC  20036-9007
202 462-0145 / 310 496-9633
action08@ gmail...


Jan. 18, 2017-Coal miners and activists from Moms Clean Air Force talk in the corridor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building outside the confirmation hearing of Scott Pruitt to be EPA Administrator.

this page revised March 5, 2017
Also see: Resources