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If you were invited to have a beer with Obama (or Pelosi, or Boehner), what would you two talk about?

If you are like me, there are many topics you'd like to personally discuss with the politicians running the country.  Such as, why is nothing being done about climate change, why haven't the TBTF banks been broken up, and why is it that criminal bankers never go to jail?  I am musing here not about getting to ask Obama or the others a single question at a televised town hall, but rather about an opportunity to have a relaxed back-and-forth dialogue which will be recorded for the public record.   And to do this for free, rather than paying $32,000 for the privilege.

Our representatives occasionally hold public constituent meetings where they spend some time answering questions,  but these have become very rare.  For example, my congressman and two senators currently have on their schedule a total of zero public meetings, according to their websites.  I believe this lack of dialogue between ordinary citizens and leadership is terrible for our democracy, and inexcusable given the tools at our disposal nowadays.  And so I submit this modest proposal for your consideration:

We activist citizens should dialogue with our representatives, publicly and frequently.  The specific way we should do this is with moderated and archived telephone town halls.
Below the fold I describe what telephone town halls are, make suggestions for how they can be made more useful by adding moderation and archiving, list some persistent problems with our current politics that frequent ones could help address, and suggest how creating a tradition of holding them could be accomplished.

Public constituent meetings, when they are held at all, now tend to be virtual.  This is completely understandable, given the relative ease with which they can be held, the disrespectful behavior of participants at recent IRL town halls, and the 2011 Giffords shooting.  They are usually telephone town halls, which are just what they sound like - huge conference calls where the representative selects one person to speak with at a time.

I have participated in some of these in the past, and while the format is promising, the level of discourse is not very high due to the callers being randomly selected.  Furthermore, recordings of the conversations are very rarely made available to the public after the event (an exception is available here), so there is no institutional memory created.  And most infuriatingly, they never get to me and my brilliant question.

Here are some obvious changes which would make telephone town halls much more useful:

  • Moderate the discussion topics in an open and democratic fashion, by having participants submit and vote on questions online.  Minimize troll behavior by using a mojo system like DKos' to establish trusted user status.
  • Foster a dialogue by allowing the questioners to have follow-up questions on the same topic.  Keep things civil by having the moderator (selected by mojo) move on to the next question if the questioner stops being reasonable.
  • Educate the representative by including pertinent facts (such as polling numbers) in the question, or by asking the representative to read and later respond to newsworthy columns or diaries.  Likewise, educate ourselves by agreeing to read whatever material the representative feels supports his position, and discussing it with him later.
  • Hold the town halls frequently to keep our voice heard, and allow us to respond in real-time to developments like upcoming votes or recent atrocious ones.
  • Archive both audio recordings and text transcriptions after the event, and index the archives so people can see what topics have been discussed in the past.
  • Organize actions based on what has been learned in the town hall.

How could all this work in practice?  Here is one scenario:

  1. I am a new participant who has recently become concerned about climate change in general, and the Keystone pipeline in particular.  I decide to find out what my congressman thinks.  I log onto the town hall moderation website for my congressional district.  It is run in a politically neutral fashion by volunteers from the district.  Participant status is restricted to registered district voters to prevent industry sockpuppets from causing mischief.
  2. In the climate change section, I look over the congressman's stands, and the text of previous town hall discussions.  I am pleased to learn that, after a period of education on the part of the early town hall participants, the congressman now claims to fully understand the existential threat that our scientists tell us we are facing from carbon. However, I am alarmed to find that he has not taken a position on the Keystone pipeline. I decide to ask him about it.
  3. I look over the climate change questions which have been submitted, and decide that I can write a better one.  In it, I first remind the congressman of the high percentage of primary Dem voters, general Dem voters, and total constituents who are somewhat concerned to extremely concerned about climate change (97%, 85% and 65%, respectively), and cite this weeks' new and higher carbon dioxide ppm number.  Then I briefly summarize the connection between the Keystone pipeline and carbon pollution.  Finally, I ask him what his vote will be on an upcoming bill related to the pipeline.  
  4. I also sketch out some follow up questions, such as why is he undecided given his stated views, a request that he respond to the points in a recent Op Ed by James Hansen, what new actions (if any) he has taken to work on climate change recently, etc.
  5. The question submission period ends, and the voting period begins.  Voting results are not publicly shown so as not to influence results (and to tip off the representative's staff what questions will be asked).
  6. My question is voted as one of the eight to be asked during the hour long town hall.  Since I can be free at the scheduled time, I am able to ask the question and follow ups myself.  The town hall is not streamed live, in order to make the experience of recording it less stressful for everyone.
  7. Volunteers download the audio from the town hall website, transcribe it, and email the text to the website admin to be archived.
  8. The town hall moderator sends out an email to all registered participants announcing the completion of the latest town hall.  It contains a list of the questions, with a link to the audio and transcripts, and an invitation to submit questions for next week.
  9. Separately, the local Dem leadership send an email which has the same information, but which also includes suggested action items for Dems, such as that those opposing the Keystone pipeline need to let the representative know of their views before the upcoming vote, that we should read and respond to an article he mentioned to us., etc.
  10. I write a DKos diary describing my experience with my question, and suggesting that people vote up climate change questions in their districts to keep holding our representatives' feet to the fire.

Why would it be worth the effort to set up regularly-scheduled town halls, and to moderate and archive them?  Here are a few longstanding problems with which they could help:

  • Currently, the 1% seem to be the only people our representatives are concerned with.  The Occupy movement is a great thing, and was badly needed, but of course politicians are happy to ignore our smelly meatspace bodies.  Increasing communication between politicians and ordinary citizens by demanding frequent virtual town halls (#occupytownhall?) will remind them on a weekly basis that the 99% are out there, and demanding change and accountability.  
  • There is a persistent problem of a conservative bias in politicians' perceptions of their constituents' views.  The educational aspect of the town halls may serve to as a corrective to this.
  • Citizen activists need to have frequent contact with their representatives to counterbalance the influence of lobbyists. Politicians in Washington are away from their constituents, but in constant contact with lobbyists who are willing to give them donations in exchange for their votes.  This temptation can wear them down, despite good intentions (if any).   This recent Matt Taibbi column describes the phenomena in the context of finance reform, which is currently being watered down in the House, with purchased Dem votes.
  • The Democratic Party base is, let's face it, scorned by the Dem leadership except during primary season.  The Republican base has recently greatly increased its influence by unifying itself, and leveraging its control over who makes it out of the primaries.  I would expect that most members of the Dem base would register to participate in the town halls at some point.  Even if the town halls are open to both parties, there are organizational and educational opportunities which arise from them which could be used to unify and organize the Dem base during primaries.  

This all sounds great, you say, but how could we get a new tradition of these telephone town halls started? Well, my initial thinking was that Dem activists should begin to have frequent town halls with Dem representatives, but I later changed things to be politically neutral to help with this question. If the proposed town halls are open to all voters, many of us could make the following perfectly reasonable pitch to our representatives:

Congresswoman, I really enjoyed participating in your telephone town hall last January.  It's too bad the audio isn't available for downloading.  I did think the questions were a bit repetitious (how many times do you have to explain Benghazi!), and of course I was unhappy that we ran out of time before the topic I was going to ask about was addressed by anyone.  

Hey, I've heard about a new politically neutral organization that is willing to solicit and democratically select the most popular constituent questions for your town halls.  They will also archive and index past ones for you, so that your constituents can easily look up whether you've previously addressed a question.  They strongly suggest a format where questioners be allowed follow ups, and that the town halls should be held frequently.   It sounds like working with them would greatly improve the town hall experience for everybody, and the time needed from you would be only an hour each week.  

Oh, you're worried about the Occupy hippies dominating the questions?  I guess they are still out there, along with the Tea Partiers.  I suppose you dialogue with the constituents you have, not the constituents you might wish.  

What do you say?

 
Your thoughts?  

And is anyone interested in working with me to try to get a demonstration project going?  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Blazehawkins, ffour, Tool, marina

    We're all in it together.

    by samlowry on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 09:22:53 AM PDT

  •  How about eliminating pay to play campaigns? (0+ / 0-)

    If politicians were shamed into or even legally restricted from buying a seat for office they'd have to talk to us because they would only get campaign funds from the people. If an amendment is put into place making it illegal for corporations to participate (which would probably make it so for unions as well - sorry!) and if all other political contributions by any citizen for over $500 per year were on public record they would have to interface with the voters.

    Your idea will have minimum if any impact because if we are not writing the big checks, what we have to say will be of minimum importance to them.

    They will not listen until private funding is mostly taken out of politics and is publicly funded, just like every other aspect of our campaign system is.

    •  You'll be surprised to know, then (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State

      It's already illegal for corporations and unions to make direct contributions to federal candidates (has been since 1907), and all contributions aggregating over $200/candidate/cycle must be itemized publicly.

      •  Yep. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Noodles

        The kinds of restrictions we need on corporate spending begin with a constitutional amendment that asserts, simply, that corporations are chartered, not to serve their shareholders, but to serve the general welfare, and that the government has broad authority to control their activities on that basis, in behalf of the citizenry.

        With that authority in hand, the next step is to severely constrain corporations' access to mass communication. The only way to do this is to put some sort of basic constraint on what fraction of their gross revenue they can spend on advertising, and on any activity (including charitable causes, I'm afraid) that is not doing business, as opposed to promoting business. Basically, any business expense that doesn't represent:

        A. Direct efforts to sell something (e.g., sales contacts).
        B. Negotiation to buy something
        C. Remunerative production of a good
        D. Remunerative delivery of a good
        E. Remunerative delivery of a service
        F. Capital acquisition and maintenance
        G. Waste disposal
        H. Executive supervision of A through G

        is not only not tax-deductible, it is not permitted beyond a certain level. No, your executives are not allowed to go promote the company to stock-jobbers. No, you cannot pay somebody to go talk to a politician. No, you cannot support a "charitable" organization by buying advertising from them, or buying books from their flacks, or whatever.

        At this point you are just getting started -- but at least you are getting started.

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 11:41:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Would you put similar restrictions on unions, (0+ / 0-)

          and advocacy organizations such as the Siera Club and NRA?

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 01:32:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "similar"? I don't know. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Noodles

            There's a big difference between a transnational for-profit corporation that needs to earn money by producing a good or a service, and a corporation whose fundamental function is something different. One of the essential objectives of my list is precisely to prevent for-profit corporations from funding advocacy organizations.

            As I said above, it's just a start. Believe me, my complete program for controlling corporations would make 90% of the American electorate blanch -- though I'd argue that's because they take so much for granted about corporate privilege that it no longer occurs to them that it is privilege.

            Two simple examples:

            A. No holding companies -- which means, no subsidiaries. Only living, breathing human beings can own stock in a company. (Among other things, this would entirely thwart the kind of BS like the pension fund rape that is documented in another current diary. It would also have made the Enron fraud impossible.)

            B. One trademark per corporation. Anything other than this is a sellout of the public interest to the corporate interest. The public gains no benefit from corporations having multiple trademarks -- it's pure and simply a marketing scam.

            C. No derivatives trading in corporate stock and financial instruments. A contract representing an option to buy stock can be granted only to an individual who is primarily employed by the company in question, and cannot be transferred to any other individual. (Upon death, the option can be exercised on behalf of the individual.) A contract representing an option to sell stock is null and void, deemed unenforceable in American courts. No short-selling of stock. No lending of stock. Put a final end to the various machinations by which the system of capital investment is perverted into a casino.

            Etc.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 02:02:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  See my comment to Adam B (0+ / 0-)

            Unions and Sierra Club etc. already have members who volunteer their own time as citizens to political campaigns. I suppose that a corporation could ask its workforce to do the same, but it's unlikely (without coercion) that they would have as much success. In fact they may have shareholders or customers demand that they not take a side.

            If we go down the road to shut down corporate contributions it's most likely that it will never happen without having this apply to unions and such. It's not my preferred outcome, but pragmatically it's unlikely to happen otherwise.

        •  Just one note (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Adam B

          As with jaywalking laws, constitutional amendments based on subjective standards are a bad idea.

          But laws based on subjective standards and enforced with "broad authority?" Such are the tools of evil men.

          The horrors of Jim Crow were only possible because such laws, indeed, precisely such laws, existed. It makes no difference that your intentions for the law are pure and theirs were not.

          •  It is not a subjective standard to assert (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Valar Morghulis

            categorically why society allows corporations to exist. We could debate the actual verbiage into something we might regard as practical. Absent such explicit verbiage, the standard under which our law operates is utterly amoral and indefensible. Only an insane society would knowingly, cheerfully, and deliberately grant into existence institutions that are definitively sociopathic, yet that is what we are told we have done. We need to assert otherwise.

            Other than that, your libertarian mistrust of "broad authority" is not convincing. The government already has broad authority over a great many things -- and indeed, must have such authority. With respect to corporations, the zealous partisans of plutocracy have done an able job of persuading us that corporations are natural and obvious extensions of ordinary human activity, and that therefore the government has extremely limited authority to control how these entities are organized, and how they behave. Nothing could be further than the truth. Corporations are creatures of the government: They exist only because the government charters them. Limiting government's capacity to regulate the things it creates is substantially more peril-fraught than is the converse.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 02:11:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  First, I never said anything about (0+ / 0-)

              why society allows corporations to exist, so I don't know why you're saying that. The subjective test I was referring to is the standard of conduct for the requirement of "serves the general welfare."

              There is no definition for "general welfare" that can be applied in a manner that is consistent with the principles of due process. Fairness requires that our laws cannot be ambiguous:

              A statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application, violates the first essential of due process of law.
              Source

              Even the phrase itself, general welfare, is clear evidence of the vague, generalized nature of the idea.

              Your point that government already has broad authority over many things is true but, it misses my main point. Ambiguous laws, as a matter of course, result in oppression and injustice. Broad authority is only a secondary contributing factor.

              •  The reason I'm talking about "why corporations (0+ / 0-)

                exist" is because my phrase, "to serve the general welfare" was offered as a model of an explicit statement our Constitution should make as to "why corporations exist".

                Apart from that: ALL of our laws are ambiguous. Language is always ambiguous. The Constitution itself is littered with ambiguity. My understanding of the meaning of the phrase, "keep and bear arms" is about 90 degrees from that of the average RKBA'er. Somehow, though, the government doesn't seem able to turn that ambiguity to favor my view, oppressively, unjustly, or otherwise.

                Apart from that: Fair? Fair? Heh. Ha.

                Apart from that, my proposed standard of "to serve the general welfare" simply enables Congress to pass laws meeting that standard as the Congress of the time interprets it. It doesn't empower Congress to pass unintelligible or unimplementable laws. The amendment is nothing but an explicit rejection of the converse assumption -- the one we function under now -- which is that corporations are chartered by the government in order to serve the interests of their shareholders. We are already operating under a vague and general principle -- the problem is, it is also a sociopathic principle.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 05:55:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Saying "all language is ambiguous" just (0+ / 0-)

                  doesn't work. A law is impermissibly ambiguous when vagueness "permeates the text" of the law for either of two reasons:

                  1. It fails to provide notice of what conduct is prohibited.

                  Or

                  2. It authorizes or encourages arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement.

                  When you say it wouldn't empower Congress to pass bad laws, I think it's more accurate to say that you don't want it to result in bad laws.

                  If I am wrong, how would a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations exist to serve the general welfare prevent John McCain or Lindsey Graham from introducing horrible legislation?

                  What if John and Lindsey got together and decided they'd had enough of Kos Media, LLC? As American citizens, they are among the beneficiaries of the new amendment, and millions of Republicans stand up and agree.

                  How does this safeguard against nefarious purposes work?

                  Remember, Kos has no argument or leg to stand on -- this is a business entity like any other, and the interests of its stakeholders are completely irrelevant.

                  •  I don't care whether it "works" for you, it's (0+ / 0-)

                    the plain truth; the failure of professionals in jurisprudence to wrap their heads around this simple reality of the nature of human expression is part of what renders utterly absurd much of what passes for "reasoning" in legal contexts. Any decent computer programmer looking at the way legislators, lawyers, judges and executives attempt to treat English as if it were an algebraic programming language understands that these people are seriously deluded.

                    In any case, Congress already can and does pass "bad" laws, by any measure anyone might care to define: Laws that are evil by design, laws that are simply ludicrous, laws that are impractical, laws that are unintelligible, laws that are self-contradictory. A constitutional amendment declaring that corporations exist to serve the general welfare would neither especially prevent, nor especially enable, anybody, fool or philosopher, charlatan or savior, from introducing legislation that is either horrible or excellent. What you refuse to acknowledge is that our society already functions as if an alternative amendment already existed: an amendment asserting that the only obligation of any corporation is to the fiduciary interests of its shareholders; and based on this de facto understanding, politicians and judges routinely carry out truly horrible legislation and jurisprudence. I do not know why it is so important to you to pretend that this is not so, and I do not expect you will articulate a reason.

                    Good day, sir.

                    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                    by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 09:54:37 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  When I read your comment, (0+ / 0-)

                      I immediately thought of this sentence:

                      Condemned to the use of words, we can never expect mathematical certainty from our language.

                      Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 (1972)

                      I agree that all words are ambiguous to some degree. But, there are varying degrees of ambiguity. And I wholeheartedly agree that Congress already passes terrible laws. I'm just not sure what point that makes.
                      A constitutional amendment declaring that corporations exist to serve the general welfare would neither especially prevent, nor especially enable, anybody, fool or philosopher, charlatan or savior, from introducing legislation that is either horrible or excellent.
                      This is objectively false. The authority of Congress to make laws is limited to the enumerated powers explicitly set forth in the Constitution:
                      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
                      Amending the Constitution to grant additional authority to Congress would enable them to pass legislation that was not previously possible. That's not really even debatable.

                      I want to quote this in full:

                      What you refuse to acknowledge is that our society already functions as if an alternative amendment already existed: an amendment asserting that the only obligation of any corporation is to the fiduciary interests of its shareholders; and based on this de facto understanding, politicians and judges routinely carry out truly horrible legislation and jurisprudence. I do not know why it is so important to you to pretend that this is not so, and I do not expect you will articulate a reason.
                      I am not pretending that terrible legislation is not routinely passed. I am arguing that a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations exist to serve the general welfare is a bad idea. I don't think it will solve problems, and I think it will create new, worse problems.

                      I even suggested a hypothetical problem, one which I believe is entirely plausible, and you ignored it entirely. If you're uncomfortable defending your argument, we can just leave it here. But don't make condescending predictions that I'll be unable to respond if you're just going to dodge questions.

                      •  I'm sorry, but if you're going to go 10ther on me (0+ / 0-)

                        there's not much room left for discussion.

                        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                        by UntimelyRippd on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 06:28:20 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  What do you mean? (0+ / 0-)

                          Do you disagree with what I said? Am I wrong? Because it looks like you're just avoiding my questions (again).

                          •  Yes. (0+ / 0-)

                            You're wrong.

                            I'm not "avoiding" your questions. I'm ignoring them, because they are moot.

                            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                            by UntimelyRippd on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 07:31:03 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  How I am wrong? (0+ / 0-)

                            Is that not what the Tenth Amendment says?

                            No, you're avoiding. I asked the questions and you completely ignored them. I argued my point, and you responded with:

                            I'm sorry, but if you're going to go 10ther on me there's not much room left for discussion.
                            I then asked if you disagree or if I am wrong, to which you replied:
                            Yes. You're wrong. I'm not "avoiding" your questions.
                            Dude, that's weak. If I am wrong, tell me why. If those questions are moot, explain why.

                            Or, I guess you can complain on Daily Kos about how awful things are while making no effort to do anything about it. Literally unwilling to even type on your keyboard.

                          •  I did explain why. (0+ / 0-)

                            It didn't seem to work.

                            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                            by UntimelyRippd on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 10:00:09 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  I get it. (0+ / 0-)

                            You will never directly respond to this:

                            If I am wrong, how would a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations exist to serve the general welfare prevent John McCain or Lindsey Graham from introducing horrible legislation?

                            What if John and Lindsey got together and decided they'd had enough of Kos Media, LLC? As American citizens, they are among the beneficiaries of the new amendment, and millions of Republicans stand up and agree.

                            How does this safeguard against nefarious purposes work?

                            Remember, Kos has no argument or leg to stand on -- this is a business entity like any other, and the interests of its stakeholders are completely irrelevant.

                            It's frustrating. People like you do this all the time -- acknowledge there's a problem, but flatly refuse to discuss a solution.

                            It's madness, really. For someone to believe they have the answer to a problem they want fixed, but will not explain why that solution will work seems so strange, but yet it's almost the standard reaction. I swear, it almost like it's more of a thrill to be victimized than to be victorious.

                            Anyway, this is in reply to you, but not really to you -- I now understand that you will not answer. I'm just lamenting for a moment at the way the world is.

      •  Yeah, but that's not good enough (0+ / 0-)

        Indirect campaign 'assistance' continues to change the political landscape. If you are a pol and you know that someone has spent millions attacking your opponent you'll still be up for doing them lots of favors.

        Many shareholders or customers may not want their dollars going to this campaign or that campaign and thus clear records of who spent what are essential. And anyway, corporations are not really citizens. Even if we passed laws to eliminate corporate contributions and needed to do the same for unions, unions could still get their membership to volunteer time on campaigns as they do now much more readily that most corporations could. That might make up for decades of unfair legislation that has made it more difficult for unions to engage in the political process than it has been for corporations.

    •  Big checks are not the only thing of importance (0+ / 0-)

      to politicians.  Re-election is of more importance, after all that is what the big checks are for.  

      I make the case in the diary that regular town halls could help turn unengaged Dems into engaged, educated and mobilized Dems who now care enough to vote in primaries.  If enough Dem voters were turned into primary voters, this would necessitate that the Dem politician shift his positions towards those of his base, and this without a dollar having changed hands.  It worked for the tea party, why not us?

      I would also argue that politicians can be influenced by the people they dialogue with, even if those people do not write checks.  Note that companies do not send checks over by FedEx, they demand access so that skilled lobbyists can spend hours trying to make it plausible that Exxon should continue to be subsidized, and green energy companies should not.  Dialogue matters.

      Speaking of which, thanks for responding to my diary, noodles.

      We're all in it together.

      by samlowry on Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 07:51:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Most people have no confidence because of $$ (0+ / 0-)

        It's not only the money but the loyalty to the lobbyist that politicians must have which keeps most Democrats and people of all political persuasions from engaging in the process. I know so many people who feel they are already ignored who will find such town halls to be at best a dog and pony show. And the reality is that often, that's what they are.

        I'm not saying let's not move forward with your idea but I think it will have limited value at this time.

        Citizens want money out of the hands of politicians and until they see a fundamental change in the political landscape only a small number of voters will effect the outcome of elections. Until we take the money out of the equation of getting a seat and have limits and transparency on the spending of money for PACs and 527's and such, when it comes down to crunch time incumbents will generally serve their large money donors first. Most incumbents hold on to their seats in the first place because so many citizens are not engaged in a system that they don't believe really involves them. Thus they get away with lots of stuff they slip into bills. And how would neutering the lobbyist / large donor influence not actually help get the politicians to fully put their constituents first? Especially if they start thinking they have a voice and start saying "Jump!" on a regular basis?

        Furthermore, the pols will have as much reason then to listen to the 'poorer' activist lobbyists as they do the well healed ones.

        •  I strongly support public funding for elections (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Noodles

          and I agree with you on the importance of money in distorting our democracy.

          The diary was not about money in our elections, however.  It was about a mechanism for having respectful dialogues between politicians and citizens, without any intermediaries, and in a very low-cost fashion.

          We will have to agree to disagree as to whether town halls modified as I described would turn out to be uninteresting dog-and-pony shows, or instead a mechanism for getting unengaged constituents involved, educating both voters and politicians, and increasing politician accountability.

          We're all in it together.

          by samlowry on Sun Jun 02, 2013 at 07:48:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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