PROPOSALS FOR RESTRUCTURING DEMOCRACY
The following measures envision new structures that could help make governmental affairs more democratic:
Randomly selected Citizen Assemblies develop policy recommendations.
As summarized in the wikipedia:
A citizens' assembly is a body formed from the citizens of a state to deliberate on an issue or issues of national importance. The membership of a citizens' assembly is randomly selected....
The purpose is to employ a cross-section of the public to study the options available to the state on certain questions and to propose answers to these questions through rational and reasoned discussion and the use of various methods of inquiry such as directly questioning experts. In many cases, the state will require these proposals to be accepted by the general public through a referendum before becoming law.... Citizens' assemblies have been used in countries such as Canada and the Netherlands to deliberate on reform of the system used to elect politicians in those countries.
Ordinarily, citizens' assemblies are state initiatives. However, there are also examples of independent citizens' assemblies, such as the ongoing Le G1000 in Belgium or the 2011 We the Citizens initiative in Ireland.
2. Community Dialogs with elected officials.
Federal legislation requires Congresspersons, Senators, and the President to participate with randomly selected constituents in a two-hour Community Dialog on the second Saturday of each month at 10 am. If necessary the elected official participates via a video conference call.
The Dialogs are carefully structured and moderated to assure that they are orderly and give constituents a fair opportunity to offer input and ask questions. The moderator is a neutral, well-respected journalist. Constituents who who want to speak and are registered to vote (in the District or State respectively) submit their name. The moderators randomly select speakers whose registration is verified.
The Dialog begins with a 10-minute report from the official concerning their recent activities and their plans for the future, and concludes with the official giving a 10-minute response to the comments and questions that were presented during the Dialog.
Constituents make comments or ask questions on any topic. Each speaker is allotted ninety seconds. If they ask a question, the official can use the rest of the speaker’s time to answer the question, or the speaker can interrupt by saying “thank you” and use the rest of their time to comment. If anyone exceeds the time limit the moderator signals to a technician to turn off the microphone.
Each Dialog includes a live audience. Speakers can ask the audience to indicate support on an given position by raising their hand. Community organizations distribute literature at tables. Participants stay after the Dialog to discuss issues informally.
The officials are responsible for recruiting the moderator, securing a location, arranging logistics, publicizing the event, and arranging to have it streamed live on the Internet and cable TV.
3. A Network of Spiritual Support Groups.
Members of these small, peer-to-peer, self-regulating groups support each other with their spiritual development by addressing the invisible inner self — spirit, or soul, character — in contrast to the visible outer world — material or physical things. They have no one leader. If they use a facilitator, members take turns facilitating. They rotate meeting in people’s homes or meet in a community center, so they aren’t dependent on any one member for a meeting place. Once they form, they decide together if, when, and whom to invite to join, so they maintain a sense of safety and compatibility. Confidentiality concerning what members share is assured. Different groups engage in a variety of activities. They may focus each meeting on sharing and discussing a poem or song, or posing a question for the group’s consideration. But they share two activities in common. They “break bread” together in some way, and they “check in” at the beginning of each meeting with each member reporting on their recent self-development efforts. In these ways, they provide mutual support for self-improvement. Occasionally some members meet locally with members of other groups to share reports on their acitivities. Once a year, a national gathering is convened. Through these share experiences, a strong sense of community develops.
4. A democratic, grassroots “Purple Alliance.”
Dedicated to humanity, the environment, and life itself, a Purple Alliance pushes for new compassionate national policies supported by a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. As reported in Purple Points of Agreement, such supermajorities agree on many policies that would lead to major improvements. The following scenario envisions how the Alliance operates.
On the first day of each month, the Alliance publicly circulates a recommended message to Congress concerning a particular piece of legislation. By the end of the week, two percent of all eligible voters, five million Americans, including three million Alliance members, have communicated with their Congressperson about the bill -- with phone calls, emails, text messages, letters, office visits, or by going to a public forum with the Congressperson.
In addition, at least once a month, many Alliance members meet with small Alliance Teams in members’ homes to discuss how to advance the Alliance’s mission and support the monthly action. Team members usually live near one another. Many share a meal and build supportive friendships by socializing informally prior to the meeting. In addition to these gatherings, many teams also engage in a variety of other activities, including picnics, volleyball games, dances, public forums, and traditional debates. Members invite friends to these activities, which attract new members with contagious happiness. Some teams join the Network of Spiritual Support Groups (see above). So long as they operate in harmony with national policies, each team is free to design its own activities.
When they communicate with Congresspersons, Purple Alliance members and supporters thank representatives who already support the focus legislation and explore with them and their staff about how they can work together to advance the bill. With those Congresspersons not yet on board, Alliance members ask staff for a report on the Congressperson’s thinking and urge support.
When needed to help persuade their Congressperson, Alliance Teams get endorsements for the focus legislation from community-based organizations and local elected officials. These activities are coordinated by their Alliance District Council, which is elected by Alliance members who live in the same Congressional district.
Some District Councils organize nonviolent civil disobedience with measures such as sit-ins at the offices of elected officials to increase support for the campaign. Other Councils train “birddoggers” who team up and keep pursuing their representative face-to-face until they've gotten an answer.
On the second Saturday at 10 am, Congresspersons, Senators, and the President participate in the Community Dialogs (see above).
Five days before the end of the second month of the campaign the Alliance convenes its representative, inclusive National Council to evaluate the success of the campaign. Their evaluation is based on measurable goals that were included in the announcement distributed at the beginning of the campaign, such as getting a certain number of co-sponsors on the bill. After reviewing comments submitted by members online and the results of a straw poll, the council discusses whether it’s realistic to continue the campaign, or, perhaps, accept possible amendments to the bill that would help gain more support without sacrificing key principles.
On a video conference call that is streamed live to the public, the Council decides there’s still a good chance to get the legislation enacted and directs the national office to urge members and supporters to continue building pressure in support of the bill.
If support for the campaign grows substantially but the bill is still not enacted, the Council may call for a national one-day work moratorium. On that day, rallies and marches are held throughout the country, featuring live music, picnics, games, and fun activities. Speeches are kept to a minimum. Following that moratorium, if the President still has not signed the bill by the end of the next month, the Council calls for a two-day work moratorium. If support continues to grow, and prospects for success are good but the bill is still not enacted, next month the Council calls for a three-day moratorium. Thereafter, if the tactic continues to be helpful, while continuing to gather community support and engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience directed at officials who remain in opposition, the Council adds another day to the length of the moratorium until the President signs the law. Throughout this process, the Council remains open to negotiated compromises that would help enable passage and still keep the core of the bill intact.
During primary season, the Alliance presses candidates to endorse the Alliance and support its campaigns. Each season, the Alliance mobilizes to defeat five vulnerable Congresspersons who stand out as having been particularly, consistently unsupportive. Success in these campaign’s helps to gain support from Congresspersons in the future.
The Alliance is directed by a 21-person board of directors elected by Alliance members nationwide. Without micromanaging, the board adopts Alliance policies, hires the director, and instructs the director to operate in a collaborative manner with top-level staff. As openings emerge, the national staff selects a nominating committee that nominates a slate of candidates that will maximize diversity on the board and likely be able to work together well. Alliance members can present alternative slates by gathering signatures on a petition signed by 0.5% of all members. Candidate forums are webcast live. Online discussion forums enable members to discuss the candidates before voting.
With each victory, the Alliance builds momentum and opens the door to fundamental reforms previously considered unrealistic -- reforms that advocates have been developing while the Alliance has built its base with incremental improvements. Grassroots attention is beginning to focus on new structures -- ways to organize society to make it more fair, democratic, respectful of individuals, life-affirming, and less damaging to the environment.