Contemporary concerns about democratic backsliding in the United States and elsewhere have produced an important new literature on democratic crisis and the ways in which political actors can undermine institutions and norms of constitutional democracy. This Article complements the democratic backsliding discourse by focusing on another set of questions: In what ways has democracy been chronically or systemically weakened and prevented, and what kinds of new institutional and organizational forms do we need to realize democratic aspirations in the twenty-first century? To develop this argument, this Article advances three main points. First, while the backsliding literature has thus far tended to focus on the sociological and institutional factors shaping the collapse of democratic regimes, this Article begins from the inverse premise: the sociological and institutional factors that affirmatively facilitate democratic equality, inclusion, and political action (Part I). This exploration of the affirmative drivers of democracy helps cast into sharper relief the more systemic and chronic ways in which current political and institutional dynamics make genuine democratic equality and participation impossible for many constituencies. In particular, democracy is undermined not only by more chronic crises of unequal power but also by systemic exclusion (Part II). This critique in turn helps inform an affirmative account of democracy-building reforms and movements (Part III).