Instead, let us speak of “consensual government” or “constitutional government,” and emphasize “republicanism.” Our goal, to the degree we wish to offer advice abroad to reformers abroad, would be to encourage illiberal states to form “representative” or “constitutional republics,” where the will of the people is expressed through representatives who themselves are subject to constitutional law.

Limited or consensual government should be our sloganeering overseas and at home. The great lesson of the Obama administration is that the abuses of democratic plebiscites abroad are not contrasted, but amplified by the increasingly lawless American model, when it uses the IRS and the Justice Department to go after political opponents, allows senior officials to lie under oath to the Congress, and fails to execute faithfully those laws passed by the legislative branch. If we are to offer America as a model, then there must be some honesty and transparency about the Benghazi, Associated Press, IRS, and NSA scandals.

In the latter 20th century, we got our wish and saw much of the world adopt Western democratic trajectories. It is now our challenge in the early 21st century to ensure that they were not given a bill of goods.