Not all votes are democratic, for — as Stalin pointed out — it’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.
Same for “town halls” and public discussions: Politicians regularly hold meetings with constituents the main point of which is to make sure that nothing too challenging gets aired.
This being the case, you might guess my reservations about “deliberative polling” in the “What’s Next California” vein.
This weekend three hundred “randomly selected” Californians gathered in Torrance to undergo what looks to be a three-part process:
- Submit to polling on the major issues facing the crisis-ridden state.
- Gather to discuss the issues, with fact-sheets in hand, and lecturers to listen to and answer questions.
- Submit to polling at the end of the session, to see how many of the participants’ ideas have changed.
Project founder James Fishkin is obviously interested in the initiative process, but just as obviously interested in seeing it lean more towards a “progressive” direction. Of the three opinions on the program featured at Zócalo Public Square, I lean towards Tim Cavanaugh’s: “By combining polling with top-down instruction from a panel of ‘experts,’ deliberative pollsters hope to determine how voting would change if voters’ opinions could be forced into compliance with establishmentarian thinking. . . .”
Athenian-style public deliberation? Not really. The experts aren’t polled, so it’s obvious that they aren’t expected to modify their opinions.
Besides, in a real democracy, the people would do their own research and bring along their own experts.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.