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Yay or Nay: Citizen Congress a Good Idea?

I was cruising candidate websites when I found this crafty idea on John Edwards's site:

Edwards believes in the wisdom of the American people and the power of deliberation. Every two years, he will ask 1 million citizens nationwide to participate in Citizen Congresses combining local town halls with the latest technology to create true national discussions, unfiltered by interest groups. Americans will discuss the challenges and trade-offs facing our country and offer advisory opinions to leaders.

Edwards points to past examples of citizen-centered projects, which have given the people a say in: the World Trade Center memorial, the redevelopment of New Orleans, and health-care reform in California.

If you're hot on the idea, the book Deliberative Democracy proposes an even more revolutionary idea: the creation a fourth branch of government as a way of giving the people a voice of their own.

Does a Citizen Congress sound good?


Join The Conversation
gendervieve gendervieve 9 years
Are maybe some missing the point here? Yes, Edwards is half baked. Agreed! But having more of the masses engaged in whats going on, be able to articulate their opinions, and act on it, is the point of what deliberative democracy is about. Having an apathetic populous is what got Americans into the state their in right now...about to dive head deep into the wake of the worst president this country has ever seen. Wake up...the country isnt going to magically fix itself by having Congress alone fix things...
MFOX4 MFOX4 9 years
As usual, Edwards ideas are half baked. Without any power to actually create law, a "citizen congress" has no clout. Its voice would simply become one more voice (opinion) among many. Our form of government was created to be a citizen form of republic. We elect fellow citizens to represent us at every level. We aren't a pure democracy where every person votes on every issue. It is our duty as citizens to elect people who are responsive to our expectations. If they don't deliver, we can vote for someone else or run ourselves. I have to say Edwards is one of the most ridiculous upper tier candidates to come along in a long while. I look forward to the day he finally drops out.
princesspower princesspower 9 years
The United States is a Rebublic, not a Democracy. The Founding Fathers created the most successful government in history and the systems of "checks and balances" and "separation of power" are fundamental reasons for our success as a nation. Changing this is not a good idea as it would tamper with proven systems. Brilliant idea Mr. Edwards, creating another branch of government is just expanding and breeding another huge bureaucracy. Unluess you like the way DMV or the Post Office currently operate?
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
Again, I think many here are missing the point. No where does it say that the Citizen Congress would enact legislation. A state's constitution would forbid such a change from happening without a change to the state's constitution and ratification. Which is what your state house of representatives or state legislature does. Now your city may have a city counsel or like San Francisco a board or supervisors but those again are elected citizens how are separated from the general populace. People who are set apart and in most cases have little contact with what's happening in the neighborhoods because of the position they hold. Try going to a City Counsel meeting and just talking about how you'd like to see better lighting (like LED lights) at the park in your neighborhood because the little kids cannot play in the twilight...oops your 30 seconds is up please sit down. Next citizen to the podium. However, smaller town hall style meetings - neighborhood based counsels and meetings produce great practical ideas that are often not thought of by local, state or federal government officials. But how often do the citizens in your city meet to discuss the issues bothering them? Not the large scale national issues but issues they see happening the their city or their corner? And furthermore how often do your state representatives come to your townhall or local meetings? How if they have a meeting can they get their ideas to a "bigger fish" who can evaluate whether its possible to put it into action? Nancy Pelosi rarely just pops in to the local coffee shops here in SF and she represents this area. Oh they don't because they are busy at the state capitol with legislative sessions or with lobbyists. The idea behind this has been around for a long time - Ancient China, Ancient Greece, Rome etc, and it is tried and true. What often happens is what happens with any situation, ideas are generated at these citizen groups then the suggestion is made that the leaders of the citizen groups seek higher office try to effect more people, make more positive change on a wider stage and so future political careers are made and these citizen groups die. The citizen groups have worked and do work but they have a limited lifespan. They basically burn bright and hot regenerating and re-invigorating an area or country then folding up shop when their usefulness has past. The best part they cost nothing to start and virtual nothing to run.
x_juicyfruit x_juicyfruit 9 years
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I think using the examples of the WTC Memorial and the rebuilding of New Orleans are telling. Neither one is close to completion and way behind schedule.
meumitsuki meumitsuki 9 years
This is what the house of representatives is for, like others have already stated. Senators represent state interests and the house represents the people's interests. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Once a senator/representative is in power all they do is worry about re-election, instead of what the people want.
gendervieve gendervieve 9 years
This is actually what I am doing my doctoral research on--how people can informally resolve community (or global for that matter) issues...politics and urban planning forget about how to really engage people...the Delibrative Democracy book is cool...also read Everyday Politics by Boyte. Its amazing how Americans have forgotten about how the little things--emailing politicians, running into them at a coffeeshop and speaking your mind, etc. can have just as much influence on the outcome of things as opposed to more formal methods such as going to a City Council mtg. That being said, don't forget to vote! This is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
this is what mike gravel (the unknown, but unbelievably awesome presidential candidate from alaska) was talking about with the national initiative. look it up, people!!
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
What about a CitizenSugar Congress? ;-)
Princesskitty22 Princesskitty22 9 years
I agree with the above statements and I think that there really are certain people who are more equipped to negotiating these things. I think that if you get a bunch of regular people together they would just argue. Not that I'm saying that's not what congress does anyway. :rotfl:
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"Edwards means well, but he's missing the point" I agree. State representatives are supposed to represent our ideas. Plus, unless you are going to filter the "citizens" that get to use this, how can you keep special interest out? It seems that the extremists in our country are usually the most active anyway. If more "average Americans" got involved in LOCAL and STATE politics, I think our system would really start speaking for the people.
Blondie99 Blondie99 9 years
I'm all for citizen congress. But isn't that what the House of Representatives is for? I think we need to take a good, long look at the way American politics have evolved (you could argue they were established that way) to exclude the common citizen. Just look at the fact that for those who will be voting for the first time in this election have only known the following presidential terms: Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush. And now another Clinton is running. Do we only have 2 families capable of running this country -- sorry, I meant to say capable of being elected to run this country? Same goes for Congress. Why create another system when we have a congress that should and MUST represent the wants of average citizens. Edwards means well, but he's missing the point.
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