Each generation of Americans evolves its own procedures to sustain and reinforce democracy. While responsiveness to the needs of the people, the rule of the majority, and non- violent changes of those in office characterize the assumptions underlying democratic procedures, the techniques used--such as town meetings and mass voting--differ from era to era.
Our generation is characterized by the evolution of new means of mass communication, notably television; by an increased mobilization of underprivileged groups in their demands for active participation in the political and allocative processes; and by increasingly complex bureaucratic structures--in government, education, religion, and other areas. Demonstrations, I shall show in detail below, are a particularly effective mode of political expression in an age of television, for underprivileged groups, and for prodding stalemated bureaucracies into taking necessary actions. Indeed, demonstrations are becoming part of the daily routine of our democracy and its most distinctive mark.
Today's American citizen has available a number of alternative forms of political action during the long periods between elections and in dealing with the numerous "private governments" not directly responsible to the electorate. In addition to writing letters to his representatives, submitting petitions, advertising in the press, and supporting organized pressure groups, a citizen may demonstrate to make known his views, especially his grievances, when expression through other means has brought no, or only inadequate, redress. In this sense, demonstrations are becoming for the citizen an avenue like strikes have become for the workers.