Representative democracy is based on a simple premise. It’s that ordinary citizens can judge complex public policy and political issues — or at least grasp them well enough to decide who should be dealing with them.

But the significance of that premise isn’t simple at all. It means that our country’s future depends on the quality of democratic participation by its citizens. So, in an era when our democracy appears to be under great stress, what must we do to keep it healthy? Here are some steps I think we need to take.