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.