The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform released a new report, “Governing in a Polarized America: A Blueprint to Strengthen our Democracy,” crafted by a bipartisan group of former members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, governors and advocates.
It consists of recommendations to reform the electoral system (e.g., non-partisan state redistricting commissions to eliminate gerrymandering), congressional reform (e.g., synchronized work schedules for the House and Senate mandating full five-day work weeks in Washington during session) and a call to service to engage the public into greater civic participation (e.g., asking Americans ages 18-28 to commit to one full year of service to their communities and the nation).
These reforms are being advanced to combat growing public frustration with Congress. However, there is one missing idea from the blueprint that would further strengthen our democracy: a more direct path for the American people to communicate their thoughts about the policy issues that are being debated in Congress. That conduit is the Citizen Cabinet.
Creating Citizen Cabinets at the national, state and district levels (large standing panels comprised of a representative sample of the citizens in each jurisdiction) would provide members of Congress precise information about what their constituents want accomplished regarding issues like Social Security reform, Medicare or defense spending. The Citizen Cabinets would counter the influence of special interests in Washington and give a voice to minority as well as majority viewpoints.
Using new online interactive tools called ‘policymaking simulations’ citizens consider solutions from both sides of the ideological aisle and make choices to solve problems that face our nation. The information is then shared with the members of Congress, administration, the media and the public, all with the goal of breaking the partisan gridlock that currently plagues our government.
As more reform proposals like this make it to the public stage, Citizen Cabinets can be used to engage the broader public in these discussions about how we fix our democracy. This could lend legitimacy and support to whatever reform proposals might emerge.
The first of the Citizen Cabinets will be launched soon… we’re looking forward to sharing the initial results.
Photo by Photo Phiend via flickr