Monday, October 29, 2007

Welcome to Democracy Daily, officially

Welcome to Democracy Daily, a non-partisan blog, dedicated to inspiring citizens of this country, in other words all of us, to recognize that the only way we can stop our descent further down the slippery slope we’re on and restore the constitution and this country’s previous stature is by retaking the proper place, power and control granted to us in a democratic political system. Before you dismiss this believing “people don’t have the time or don’t care” or “what can we really do anyway” consider the following. The current penetration of Internet and mobile means that on virtually a national level everyone can have almost immediate access to people, places and data. Given the use of current technology and the potential of future technology it is not hard to imagine that programs, software, features, functionality couldn’t be developed that would allow everyone to easily keep up to date with or track of every public decision made by anyone in any of the three branches of government. As well as provide a feedback mechanism so we could rate, review, and comment on those decisions. Given this, you can begin to see how we could easily modify our behavior, within our current lifestyle, and play a much more active role in our political process, otherwise known as democracy. In terms of “people not caring” don’t be deceived; there is a wellspring of anger, resentment and frustration, on both the right and left, waiting to be channeled into a positive, productive way forward. The response “what can we really do anyway?” gets to the crux of the issue. In a fully realized and functioning democracy citizens have real, sustainable power. The following three points come from 2 presentations What is Democracy? and Some basic principles of Democracy made to the Iraqi people by Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the right leaning Hoover Institute at Stanford University, in preparation for their foray into a Democratic society.

The active participation of people, as citizens, in politics and civic life is one of four key elements of a democratic system of government

"Government authority flows from the people and is based upon their consent. "

“The people are sovereign—they are the highest authority—and government is based on the will of the people. Elected representatives at the national and local levels must listen to the people and be responsive to their needs."

And a strong, functioning democracy serves to safeguard a country’s constitution making it much more difficult to violate. When you realize that the needs of the citizens or national security are the only two things that should be driving any or all of elected officials actions, it becomes ridiculously apparent that our democracy is in serious disrepair.

We all know democracy is part of the fabric of this country and our birthright and as long as we vote every couple of years, less often for some, to fill the empty seats of retiring politicians or departing felons, democracy will continue. Beyond that our perceptions or understanding of it starts to diverge. Surveys asking basic questions about our political system show a significant lack of awareness for the basic fundamental principles. For the past 40 years there has been a downward trend in citizen’s voting and participating in civic life. We keep moving further and further away from the political process and yet despite that distance, or maybe because of it, we have been steadily handing over more and more of our power to elected officials. In fact we have taken “representation” to a new height by essentially giving our elected officials “power of attorney” allowing them to make decisions about and for us based on their own judgment of who and what we are and need.

I could go on talking about this, and will, in subsequent posts but for now let’s talk about the solution. In order for us to seize democracy it needs to be redefined and reframed. Right now democracy lives in a conceptual space, we need to ground it, make it tangible so people can see it and understand how to employ it, engage with it, and participate. As well as make it clear that the citizens own democracy, not the politicians. It is designed to serve citizen’s needs and purpose and allowing them to set the political agenda.

Democracy currently engenders passive, reactive participation
• Citizens wait passively for elected officials to come home to their districts to solicit information from about what citizens need or want
• Citizens react to their elected officials actions, often after the fact, by sending signing petitions, demonstrating, etc.
• Citizens passively wait until elections to send a message of dissatisfaction

The objective is to create daily pro-active participation
• Citizens pro-actively inform/educate their elected officials about what they need and want.
• Citizens set the political agenda
• Citizens pro-actively track the voting record of their elected officials and give them feedback on how they’re doing

Democracy Daily was started to engage people in this thinking and encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas, to start a conversation. To provide a place where people can talk about what is going on in their towns and cities and promote the exchange of ideas, programs and tactics to generate awareness, excitement, interest, talk about redefining and reframing democracy. We hope to encourage the development of additional ideas, tools, groups, and mechanisms to help bring this all to fruition.

We intend to operate on a hybrid social networking model. We will start off with regular bloggers, from both the left and the right, posting based on their own schedule and then at certain intervals the current round of bloggers will invite someone from their own “network” to join in. After a while this next group will invite someone from their ‘network” and so on and so on. In addition if someone wants to contribute a post or be a regular blogger they can either mention that in comments or email us. We’ll gladly put up additional posts. We are hoping people with all different backgrounds and interests and political affiliations join in the conversation. For this idea to take root it requires people bring ideas and thinking that can manifest in many different ways. It needs people to develop software programs, tools and mechanisms to allow citizens to interact with their elected officials and track relevant information regarding them and the legislature they are working and/or voting on. It requires communities find ways to work together and for people to remain engaged and informed about their immediate world and the larger world around them.

We look forward to your comments, ideas, suggestions, point of view, etc. The only request or requirement is that you don’t engage in or try to engage anyone else in badmouthing, trashing or denigrating any affiliation or group. No gratuitous negativity. You can say something negative if you feel you have to, as long as it is in the context of a legitimate point you are trying to make. We all need to take responsibility for what we say and how we behave.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you stick around to help make democracy the new American pastime.


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