I was invited to contribute one of three short op-eds about the upcoming Deliberative Poll “What’s Next California?” for Zócalo Public Square, an online magazine on civic issues based in Los Angeles, CA. You can read all three of them here (scroll to the bottom for mine): Hurdles Remain, But It’s a Start
The second of the three, by Tim Cavanaugh of Reason Magazine, was refreshingly negative. Excerpt:
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 – sorry, I meant to say, “if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues,” as Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy puts it.
Voters don’t need more be-ins with panels of self-interested experts. They see their taxes going up. They see the ever-expanding number of “For Lease” signs in their neighborhoods. They see the state economy falling apart under the misrule of the very same good-government types who organize events like this. And they are either resigning themselves to the collapse of a state government that plays no positive role in their lives, or (in increasing numbers) fleeing the state for places like Texas where the government does not prey upon them quite so eagerly.
Setting aside tone for a minute, these comments contain a number of very valid questions and concerns. The conveners should see every negative comment or mischaracterization of the event’s intentions or structure as an opportunity to clarify their message, address concerns and, ultimately, foster trust. The follow-up appeared some time mid-day yesterday, but so far it seems the What’s Next California team has yet to engage.