Democratic ideals is a theorical phrase meaning either personal qualities or standards of government behavior that are felt to be essential for the continuation of a democratic policy. Advocates for causes across the political spectrum use this phrase in attempting to engage in persuasion, particularly by contrasting some situation which has been allowed to continue for pragmatic or social reasons, but which those advocating an opportunity, and that equality is a democratic ideal. Other times, advocates of one political outlook or another will use the phrase to energize support among their constituencies, despite knowing that their political opponents use precisely the same phrase to do precisely the same thing.  
Frequently the importance of human rights is listed as a central democratic ideal, as well as instilling in military and civilian governmental personnel the attitudes and methods which will prevent their actions from infringing on those rights. 
Other uses of the term
In historical texts, the phrase is often used to denote aspirations or norms of behavior, separate from a functioning democracy, including egalitarianism, self-government, self-determination and freedom of conscience.