What a week! As the story in the mayor’s office unfolds like a Greek tragedy, citizens may feel that it’s just one more brick in the wall of uncivil behavior by politicians, another reason to tune out.
And, yet, something else happened in San Diego last week. At a session at the Scripps Ranch library, citizens heard a new perspective on our problems: adversarial “politics-as-usual” doesn’t work and expert-provided research alone doesn’t work. These techniques aren’t sufficient to address the growing diversity and perspectives of our population or the complexity of common problems.
Invited by local, good governance groups, a key practitioner in the deliberative dialogue movement, Martin Carcasson of the Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University spoke on “What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?”
Carcasson strongly advocated for a new approach to politics: a process he called deliberative democracy, in which citizens (not just experts or politicians) are deeply involved in public decision-making and problem-solving. The process requires listening to one another in order to think critically about the options before us. And it requires consideration of the underlying tensions and tough choices inherent in most public issues. For example, as you weigh the elements of the Constitution (which include freedom, equality, justice, security and fairness), which do you value most? If it is equality, do you not value freedom? If it is freedom, do you not value security?