"A credible national survey reveals that more students know the names of the Three Stooges than the three branches of government." --U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution, 2005, p. 133.
Well, maybe that's because these days the three branches of government work together about as well as Curly, Larry, and Moe painting a room.
I seem to recall also seeing polls that show that a majority of Americans cannot name one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. I do suspect that if you asked a well informed person to name one of those provisions, he or she would shoot from the hip "freedom of speech," or "freedom of the press" or "freedom of religion." Those are all quite wonderful things to have in a democracy, but I wonder if the most important part of the First Amendment is the final eighteen words, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." After all, if people don't exercise their right to tell the government when they're displeased about something, what's to stop government from continuing the offending practice? If you say "elections," I'm not certain I'd agree. Sometimes, alas, government goes on doing things that irritate a lot of people regardless of the results at the ballot.
The significant point is that we've got a right to assemble and petition--or to condense it into one word, a right to protest--and democracy works best as a participatory exercise. So why do so many think it's acceptable to mock people simply for the act of assembling and making their voices heard? Take a look at this video; notice how condescending Rachel Maddow and her guest are about the "Tea Parties" planned for this week:
To me, this smacks more of sneering at people for getting together to protest rather than an honest disagreement with the outcome the protesters endorse. I don't mean to pick on Maddow since she's a liberal; I've seen the same on the other side. Some conservatives have mocked Code Pink and other Iraq War opponents for marching to make their position known.
We should all try not to do this. Argue with the message if you wish, but respect the right and the desire to protest. You'll want that consideration yourself if you're ever inspired peaceably to assemble.