A Fantasy

Author: Gary Hart

Early in 2011, President Obama proposes town hall forums across the country sponsored by local civic organizations and both political parties.  He asks that these meetings discuss the great goals of the nation in the next 25 years, that resolutions be passed incorporating these goals, and that these resolutions be sent to the White House.

The president then brings together senior statesmen and women to discuss these resolutions and to find common themes.  This national forum will be broadcast and call-in comments invited.  Out of these discussions a national agenda for the next quarter century will be announced.  The president will request leaders of both political parties to endorse this agenda and agree to pursue it through legislation where it is required.

Unlike the partisan agendas of both parties, this national agenda will come from the people.  Though ideologues of both parties will attend and participate in the local forums, community leaders will stress that all proposals be judged by the national interest, not narrow partisan or special interest demands.  This is a difficult and obviously complex process.  But there is an identifiable national interest to be used as a standard.

Among the great issues to be discussed will be these: national security in the 21st century; economic competitiveness and how to restore it; public debt and deficits; health care costs; managing the social safety net (entitlements); a simple and just tax system; restoring a world class education system; climate and environment for future generations; and America’s role in the world.

Democracy and the republican ideal began in the public forums of Athens and Rome.  A mass democracy of 300 million cannot meet in one forum.  But as a function of citizen duty it can meet in many local forums. 

This is a fantasy.  But it is by no means an impossible one.

12 Responses to “A Fantasy”

  1. Gary Hart: A Fantasy | Webnewstastic! Says:

    […] To comment, please visit Senator Hart’s blog at: http://www.mattersofprinciple.com/?p=575 […]

  2. Pat Boice Says:

    What a fantastic idea! Senator Hart, you are just the one to promote this, along with our help!

  3. Tomas Says:

    Where do I RSVP?

  4. Ken Dean Says:

    Great idea, and realtively easy to do. There is a hunger among the masses to engage in democratic participatory discussion and national agenda formation.

    A small scale organization could be launched by a few wise sages, who have recently worked in excellent collaboration, Senator Gary Hart, Senator John Danforth, Senator Bill Bradley, among others. Collectivley, they would be able to find national and regional funding sources, so a small staff can be hired, and a seedling program born.

    CSPAN can be convinced to cover the early Town Hall forums, so the rest of the nation can see the recipe, and be invited to establish the same in their backyards. Because of the national hunger for a better politics, and a better political discourse among citizens taking charge again, this has a potential for a noble harvest.

    We need a way to produce some light. This is one of them.

    If their souls are so prompted, the wisdom tradition sages of American politics, mentioned above, have the capacity to give this idea some foundation, birth, and help call it forth. A new way for the wise elder sages to continue their excellent collaboration. Help a nation, and the nations troubled politics, rise higher we hope, find more wisdom and light.

    May these sages, ‘Council of Elders’, continue their excellent work. The nation needs them. The ‘Council of Elders’ can launch these Town Hall meetings.

  5. Indon Says:

    When you say that 300 million people can not meet in a single forum, you’re wrong. Don’t you use twitter or facebook?

  6. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    Interesting indeed. The idea that We the People shape the next quarter century with OUR ideas? Hey, that’s why I’m still a Democrat. You won’t hear Republicans coming up with something like that. Exception though. Why didn’t President Obama do this the FIRST year of his Presidency? Would definitely have made a difference in these mid-Terms. At least I think so. Okay, so my next question is; how do we get this going? I’ll be checking in!

  7. Andy Says:

    This should be one of many vehicles to better engage with the American public. Citizens must realize that “government is us” and what better way to engage than with dialogue amongst ourselves and our elected leaders. We should all be a part of the process, not just on voting day. Unfortunately, for most Americans who are somewhere in the middle of left/right, there is lack of time, apathy, etc. and so it’s the extreme’s that participate the most and have the loudest voice. That’s why I say it should be “one of many vehicles.”

  8. Nancy Lee Says:

    It could be a fantasy because of the loud shouting at previous health care reform town hall meetings when the Teapublicans took over and did not allow the members of Congress to speak. However, hope springs eternal. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Americans were allowed to discuss issues calmly without the loudmouths taking over the agenda?

  9. Vigdor Schreibman Says:

    The Power of the People
    By Vigdor Schreibman

    In a democracy, under the Republican form of Government, “all power derives from the people,” and it is the people who are the leaders not mere supplicants and subjects of the independent leadership exercised by others, strategically placed persons.. It is the latter who have been fucking over the people during the last two centuries following Edmund Burke, the “intellectual godfather” of the independence theory of legislation, derived from the sovereign power of the king, which has been extended to a tangled mass of independent controllers: the president, the legislator, the city manager, the union leader, etc., leaving the people virtually powerless, disenfranchised, and threatened with the dire outcome now in view of the extinction of American civilization governed by the lunacy of ecological fundamentalism.

    A democracy is not the sovereign elite exercising independent power in the name of the masses so as to best serve themselves. No such independent power exists. We the People are the sovereign source of power in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” as the blood soaked vision of Lincoln exclaimed at Gettysburg.

    All official powers must be organized not to filter and replace the sovereign powers of the people, for example, by a two-party political system. The party is over. We must, instead, support the sovereign will of the people guided by the great aspiration of E Pluribus Unum included in the Seal of the United States, guided by the purpose of the Constitution of the United States, stated in the Preamble, “to form a more perfect Union” of the whole people.

    We must, therefore, support participatory governance in the pursuit of wisdom and democracy which we certainly can now secure with full support of all the tools of the Age of Internet, and the New Agora. http://sunsite.utk.edu/FINS/loversofdemocracy/H.Ozbekhan_values-directed_Planning.pdf

  10. Peter Jones Says:

    Gary, thank you for your thoughtful scenario. Some of us are taking this proposal quite seriously. Board members of the Agoras Institute have been discussing this kind of approach since Pres Obama was elected, but since that brief opportune moment in early 2008 the polity has fragmented and a democratic approach to developing real priorities has eluded us.

    We see a possible fit to join you, perhaps in league with a major society such as the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. The Agoras Institute http://globalagoras.org convenes the Structured Dialogic Design method for localized groups to formulate problem-based priority maps based on mapping true root causes to democratically establish priorities. SDD sessions exhibit nearly total consensus on the final priority maps, and these maps can be aggregated and resolved by continuing discourse. We may be reached at my email, or via the website.

    Let us know if we can help make the fantasy of democracy a democratic reality.

  11. Aurelio Lomack Says:

    Thank you for your wonderful post! It has been very insightful. I hope that you will continue posting your knowledge with us.

  12. Christine Gallo Says:

    Did I miss seeing proposed discussions about our infrastructure? I hope not, in addition to education, we desperately need to address this issue, and thereby indirectly help solve some of our unemployment problems.

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