A healthy democracy needs the capacity to involve its citizens in key decisions. Government cannot be left to leaders, experts, and pundits with the public only weighing in on election day. People from all walks of life should be encouraged to wrestle with tough questions, seek common ground, and develop and articulate their views.
President Obama should call for regular national discussions of one million Americans or more on the issues of highest public concern, like foreign policy, energy, taxes, health care, and jobs. Every citizen should have a seat at the table. National Discussions could be one of the signature initiatives of the Open Government Directive that signals a new way of governing.
National discussions will use a variety of methods to ensure that more than one million Americans can take part in a meaningful way. Some people will weigh in by participating in massive national town meetings that link gatherings around the country together by satellite, so that Americans in Buffalo can speak with Americans in San Jose, Boise, Birmingham and other communities around the nation. Others will host their own conversations in their homes, places of work or community centers. In small groups, they will wrestle with the challenges facing our nation and then submit their ideas over the Internet. Still others who cannot attend the national discussion in person will join the process online, where they will work with a small group in a virtual discussion space before registering their priorities.
Each National Discussion will engage Americans from every walk of life and every corner of the nation. By providing so many people with a meaningful voice, we can help restore public trust in our governing institutions and energize the civic spirit of America.