In this article, I examine the textual underpinnings of participatory Confucian democracy and Confucian meritocracy and propose realist Confucian democracy as an alternative following a balanced reading of classic Confucianism. I argue that Confucian plebeian values do not square with the political meritocrats’ (Daniel A. Bell and Tongdong Bai) advocacy for meritocratic rule while Confucian elitist values undermine participatory democrats’ (Sor-hoon Tan and Stephen Angle) ardor for justifications of active democratic participation. A shared difficulty with both groups is that they tend to overuse one aspect of Confucianism while leaving the status of other elements in limbo. The discussion of participatory democracy and meritocracy is followed by the introduction of an eclectic reading that strikes a dynamic balance between elitist and plebeian values in Confucianism, and which points to the wide gamut of realist democracy that combines democratic election with strong leadership.