Here, a 50 percent electoral turnout is considered a great success. In Los Angeles city elections, turnout is often just a fraction of that. In part, that may be simply because so much less is at stake in our elections. Our democracy is largely secure; we needn’t rush to the polls for fear that it could crumble. But there is more. American voters have known democracy all their lives, its glories as well as its liabilities. Our optimism is tempered by real-life experiences, by politicians who betray our trust and parties that fail to represent our needs. It’s also true that we’ve probably just come to view our rights as a given. Instead of being grateful, we’ve become blase about the awesome constitutional tradition we’ve been handed down. Perhaps we can learn something from the brave Iraqi people, who seem to be ecstatic about a newfound freedom we’ve safely enjoyed for more than two centuries. The photos of Iraqis lining up at the polls – which had to stay open late and ran out of ballots because turnout was so high – can give all Americans a sense of hope, pride and conviction. The hope comes from the tremendous success of last week’s parliamentary elections, which attracted as much as 70 percent of the electorate. By any standard, such turnout is impressive, but it’s especially so in a country where voting carries the risk of death. That Sunnis, who boycotted earlier elections, saw the need to participate in this one is an encouraging sign that lasting peace and stability may be achievable after all. The pride comes from knowing that it’s American toil, money and blood that made these elections possible. If Iraq survives as a democratic state, it will be thanks to the thousands of American men and women who have risked – and sometimes given – their lives to make it possible. Then there is the sense of conviction – guilt, actually – that comes from watching people delight in the sort of political freedom that we too often take for granted. There are ample signs that even the Sunnis are learning something from all this. During the last two elections, they sat on the sidelines in protest, and suffered for it. This time, they wised up. They realized that, in a democracy, if you want want to be heard, you have to participate. And that’s as true in Los Angeles as it is in Iraq.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!