The United States of America is a Republic. From Wikipedia: The word originates from the Latin term res publica, which literally translates as “public thing” or “public matter”. The idea resides in a representative form of government. The people elect one of their own to represent them in the government. Deliberative Democracy is a form or method of discourse where by the people deliberate issues and collectively make policy decisions. The process of deliberation is eroded with purchased public lies and innuendos.
The Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia to begin the deliberation on the form our government was to take. The deliberations were open and honest, sometimes contentious, and often difficult. The use of modern media opportunities by contemporary condidates for representation of the people has eroeded the deliberative process. When candidates can purchase media time to report anything they want – including distortions and outright lies – our process breaks down.
The early deliberations of this country included defining which of the citizens would be allowed to vote. Some said only those with education should vote, others claimed only property owners should be allowed say in the government. The debate centered around who was competent to make the important decisions. In the course of an evolving government process amendments to the original constitution were made – thus allowing the widest range of discourse possible. The intention was to give everyone an opportunity to be represented by their government.
The idea of total public discourse, public deliberation of representative ideals, of a populace educated by a free press, worked well for decades. Today we the people find ourselves overwhelmed by the purchase of the press by special interests. The media no longer qualifies as ‘free press.’
The ideals of representative government, of a deliberative democracy, are breaking down under the weight of massive distortions purchased at the expens of truth, honor, and integrity.
How must this process work? We will quote from a web page on ‘deliberative democracy’:
Deliberative Democracy is founded on our belief that citizens care enough and are smart enough to participate meaningfully in the deliberative process of making public policy. We also believe that as citizens choose policy options they’re willing to accept, they develop the political will to make needed changes.
Traditional Democracy: Why it’s not working
Political paralysis: Leaders seem unable to take strong action; the public seems unwilling to accept painful solutions to difficult problems. And citizens complain they have been pushed out of the process.
Powerful special interest groups: Outspoken and organized, they dominate every debate.
Poll-based public opinion: It’s fickle, uninformed and a shaky foundation for good decisions.
Poor policy research: Little time and less money means research is often superficial, leaving many options unexplored.
The Solutions: How Deliberative Democracy works
It involves the whole community in the decision-making process.
It replaces public opinion with public judgment, an informed, stable consensus reached through thoughtful deliberation. It gives citizens substantial and relevant information and tells policy makers what trade-offs citizens are willing to support.
It gives citizens a realistic policy problem to work on, challenging them to make choices that reach past compromise to shared solutions.
It allows governments to invest the time and money required for quality policy research. Only then will the results be accepted as credible and worthy of implementation; only then will policy makers be empowered to take strong, decisive action.
The Results: How Deliberative Democracy succeeds
The Deliberative Democracy Project has helped citizens’ groups, local and state governments, professional organizations and the media to engage citizens in the deliberative process of making decisions.
Here are some of the reasons why we believe Deliberative Democracy works:
It educates the community, revitalizes civic culture, and enables elected leaders to act decisively.
It fosters a democratic dialogue among citizens and offers a useful middle ground between traditional representative democracy and direct democracy.
Most importantly, Deliberative Democracy forges a new relationship between citizens and their government, changing the nature of public discourse to focus on problem solving and a shared search for solutions.
Where Deliberative Democracy has worked
Ft. Collins, Colorado: Working with the city, The Deliberative Democracy project is helping citizens plan the future of their community by setting an agenda of goals and working through solutions.
The Vote Smart Web Page: Project Vote Smart is a useful guide for sorting out the vast realms of political information available on the World Wide Web. The information ranges from congressional voting records to political humor. It is a helpful directory for all sorts of political information.
Eugene, Oregon: A partnership between citizens and the media, facilitated by the Deliberative Democracy project, created a Citizens’ Agenda for the 1994 general election. Nearly 500 participants in three community forums identified campaign issues; the media then concentrated its coverage on those issues.