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New Comic Book Teaches How Democracy Works


An excerpt from the comic book - COURTESY OF THE CENTER FOR CARTOON STUDIES
  • Courtesy of the Center for Cartoon Studies
  • An excerpt from the comic book

Did you know that when the United States Constitution was ratified in 1788, only white men who were 21 or older and owned land could vote?

Since then, the Constitution has changed. But how and when did that happen?

The Center for Cartoon Studies' This is What Democracy Looks Like: A Graphic Guide to Governance provides the answers to these questions — and many more.

"We tend to think of the government as one big, tangled thing," writes lead cartoonist, writer and researcher for the project, Dan Nott, in the book, published in July 2019. This is What Democracy Looks Like aims to unravel that confusion.

The project includes drawings and writing from CCS cofounder James Sturm and other contributing cartoonists. Nott described the slim, soft-covered book as a read "kids will be interested in, without being talked down to."

The 32-page book — downloadable for free on the Center's website — explains how elections work, the president's job and the history of American democracy. Clear illustrations and concise writing provide a straightforward, nonpartisan explanation of the government's three branches and specific responsibilities. Subsequent pages include explanations of checks and balances, the way state and county governments operate, and a brief guide to the Constitution.

Thoughtful quotes from famous citizens include this line from Vermonter and environmentalist Bill McKibben: "Democracy is about getting together with your community to think together about your future."

Additionally, the Center partnered with educators to create a teaching guide aligned with Common Core standards, also downloadable for free, with detailed lesson plans.

The book is now in its third print run, with a total of 40,000 paper copies printed, and over 1,000 downloads. "The timing is right," said Nott. "It's something we're all thinking about."

Collaborating with other cartoonists, he added, was especially rewarding. "Handing off the book, person to person, everyone has a chance to put their voice into it and move it along a little further," he said. Sounds like democracy at its best.

Download This is What Democracy Looks Like for free online at (or make a donation on the site). Order print copies of the book online for $6, in bundles of 25 for $50 or 50 for $75.

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