Saturday, April 07, 2007

How can we engage more people in the democratic process?

Barack Obama, a candidate from the Democratic Party for the next U.S. president, is trying something that perhaps no other presidents or candidates have tried. He posted a question in Yahoo!Answer: how can we engage more people in the democratic process?

I'm not exactly clear what he meant by democratic process - whether it is the election only, or the whole democratic process, whatever the process is.

Some answers are quite interesting:
The first thing I would suggest is to reestablish the people's trust in government. Many people have lost trust in the system and this leads to apathy. After all, who wants to participate in a process that is viewed as flawed or biased? I, myself, have become disillusioned with our democratic process (as have many others I know). Many people just no longer believe that the government has their best interest in mind.

This question assumes that participation in democratic process if a matter of *choice* when in fact its a matter of *ability*. The first step should be to bring all people to equal *ability* to participate in the democratic process. With massive inequalities in education, standard of living, and access to resources - we are clearly not there yet. On one hand we have those who don't even know whether they will get to eat tonight - worrying about voting in the mid-term elections is hardly on the top of their mind. On the other hand we have those who have paid millions of dollars to politician's election campaigns to make sure that their needs are taken care of once the politician gets elected. Can this really be referred to as "the democratic process"?

It would help if politicians could be trusted. And the best way to gains ones trust is an act of generosity on their behalf. I think proposing legislation to remove corporate and private donations, essentially cleaning up the system, would prove to the voters you are genuine and can be trusted.

By ending the smear campaigns. Many people have become apathetic to politics because they are fed up with the negativity and mud slinging. We want to hear what the candidates CAN and WILL do, not a list of every crime against the other.


Send corrupt politicians to real prisons to serve real time. Stop treating us like children. Stop lying.

The majority of the people I talk to tell me "it doesn't matter what I say or how I vote, Congress does what the people who donate the money to their campaigns tell them to do". I believe most politicians in Washington D.C. probably are bought and paid for and unless their constituency makes enough noise to change their vote they vote with big donor interest in mind. Unless we have Federally funded campaigns and some way to reign-in lobbyist pocket books and influence we will never get enough people engaged in the democratic process to make it really a "Government by the people".

Why do politicians want to engage more people in the democratic process? At the same time, why do people want to get engaged in the democratic process? I guess, whatever the answers are, politicians should not engage people in the process just for the sake of making the process looks democratic.