Why value democracy? One familiar answer is that democracy expresses respect for citizens, whereas non-democratic modes of governance insultingly express disrespect. Recent work has subjected this view to substantial criticism, raising serious doubts about its plausibility. This article contends that prevailing objections succeed only because they target implausible interpretations of this view, according to which the wrong of political exclusion consists in some insulting disregard for the interests of excluded agents. On the revised respect-based argument to be defended here, however, the insult of political exclusion implicates not the interests of excluded agents, but rather their duties. On this view, democracy is uniquely respectful because it recognizes that the work of achieving a just political order is work that morality assigns not simply to a select few, but to all. To shut moral agents out of the decision-making process is insulting because it flouts their status as the kinds of beings on whom duties of justice equally fall, and who therefore have a presumptively equal prerogative to be involved in seeing to it that justice is done. This interpretation of the respect-based argument is not susceptible to the objections advanced against other interpretations. It better accounts for the role of reasonable disagreement about justice in democratic theory. And it is superior at explaining why respect-based democrats should harbor a qualified skepticism toward judicial review: because the job of securing justice belongs, in the first instance, not to judges, but to everybody.

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