Giving ‘We the People’ a Greater Voice
VOP seeks to give the American people a greater voice by:
- Creating Citizen Cabinets at the national, state and district levels–large standing panels comprised of a representative sample of the citizens in each jurisdiction, to be consulted on current issues, using new online interactive tools called ‘policymaking simulations’ to give voice to the people on an unprecedented scale; and
- Making these same online resources available to all Americans, so they can get better informed and more effectively communicate their views to their representatives.
How the Citizen Cabinets Will Work
The national Citizen Cabinet will consist of a base national sample of at least 800 citizens, plus state Citizen Cabinets of at least 400 citizens and district Citizen Cabinets of at least 300—a total of several thousand in the early stages, rising to 120,000 when it is fully built out. These citizens will be scientifically selected to be representative of each jurisdiction and will be connected through an online interface. Each Citizen Cabinet member will serve for 9-12 months, and Internet access will be provided to those who do not already have it.
On a regular basis, members of the Citizen Cabinet will go through an online public consultation exercise – called a ‘policymaking simulation’ because it simulates the process elected officials go through — on a pressing issue facing the federal government. For each issue, Citizen Cabinet members will:
- Get unbiased background information reviewed by experts and congressional staff from both parties
- Hear competing policy options that are actually on the table and evaluate the strongest pro and con arguments
- Choose from a menu of policy options or go through an in-depth prioritization process that requires making trade-offs, such as creating a budget
Finally, the Citizen Cabinets’ recommendations will be reported to their corresponding Members of Congress, the President, the news media and the public.
All of the materials presented to the Citizen Cabinets—the briefing, competing arguments, and policy options—will be vetted by a bipartisan group of experts and available online for anyone to see. To provide more in-depth input from the public, in-person assemblies with discussion groups also will be conducted, to supplement the online consultation process.
In the start-up phase the Citizen Cabinets will be managed by the Program for Public Consultation, affiliated with the University of Maryland, in close consultation with Congressional staffers from both sides of the aisle, and with oversight of the bipartisan advisory board of VOP. Ultimately VOP seeks to establish a new Congressionally-chartered National Academy for Public Consultation that will develop and manage the Citizen Cabinets.
Enabling All Citizens to Get More Effectively Engaged
While members of the Citizen Cabinets would be scientifically selected to be a representative sample of the public, VOP seeks to give all Americans the opportunity to use these same online interactive tools–getting briefed, weighing competing arguments and coming to conclusions on key policy options. We will also make these tools available to schools, community groups and other organizations.
Citizens will be able to better engage and make more effective recommendations to their representatives, as their input will be more informed and focused on the actual policy choices and tradeoffs Congress is facing.
Americans Support the Citizen Cabinet Model and Believe it Will Improve Government
In a recent poll an overwhelming majority of Americans supported the Citizen Cabinet idea, and said that with a Citizen Cabinet providing input, government would be more likely to:
- Show common sense;
- Move beyond polarization and gridlock;
- Find common ground and resolve political conflicts; and
- Serve the common good, rather than special interests.
Using New Technology to Fulfill the Founders’ Vision
The 21st-Century solution we are proposing was not available to the Founders, but the Citizen Cabinet model embodies their vision for America. The first three words of the Constitution “We the People” clarify the Founders’ belief that government should be guided by what they called “the sense of the people.” By this, they did not mean the people’s passions and misinformation; rather, as Alexander Hamilton said, “the cool and deliberate sense of the community…should govern.” This is just the kind of sensibility that the Citizen Cabinet process will elicit, and is likely to foster the more civil and reasoned discourse the Founders intended.
How Congress Will Benefit from Citizen Cabinets
The Citizen Cabinet will:
- Give Members of Congress a more accurate understanding of their constituents’ views, rather than relying on the unreliable impressions they get from letters and phone calls
- Provide public input that is directly focused on the actual policy choices Members of Congress are facing and help counter misinformation
- Help Congress move through polarization and gridlock by giving voice to a public that is not as polarized as the forces that drive our current political climate
- Provide Members of Congress with reinforcement for making tough choices–allowing them to counter pressure from special interests and do what they believe is right
- Help restore confidence in government by creating a highly visible forum in which government leaders are demonstrably listening to the people, setting a new model and tone for the relationship between the people and their government
As the Citizen Cabinets help get things done and restores public confidence, Members of Congress and their staffs will do a better job representing the people, and find their government service more rewarding.
Next Steps – Making it Happen
VOP is working to get Congress to formally establish a National Academy for Public Consultation to operate the Citizen Cabinets and is engaging citizens, current and former policymakers and other leaders at the national, state and local levels to join with us in this effort. At the same time, VOP is proceeding to work with the Program for Public Consultation, affiliated with the University of Maryland, to create a national Citizen Cabinet and Citizen Cabinets in selected states and congressional districts across the country. VOP is actively seeking contributions from individuals and foundations to support these efforts. Learn how you can help »
Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention…If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787