In Democracy Lives in Darkness, Emily Van Duyn discovers and follows a secret political organization of progressive women in a conservative community in rural Texas. Its members met in secret to protect themselves from retaliation by their conservative neighbors, friends, and family. They discussed immigrant rights, women's reproductive rights, racism, and intolerance of those of different racial/ethnic and cultural backgrounds in their community. Democracy Lives in Darkness is about this group: their daily lives, their choices, and ultimately, their incubation. But it is also about what led them to meet in secret—the political prejudice and hostility that marginalizes and makes people afraid, and the growing political, social, and geographic cleavages that now make even mainstream dissent dangerous.
Van Duyn asks why mainstream partisans feel the need to hide their political beliefs from others, why they feel afraid of those from the opposite party, how they stay politically engaged in secret, and how this can transform them and their communities. Van Duyn challenges the assumption that the United States is a liberal democracy where ideas can be expressed freely and publicly. Rather, she suggests that democracy in the United States may exist in darkness, but, more optimistically, that it uses this darkness to move forward.
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