Democracy, Democracy, Democracy…after saying the word a number of times, I am still not sure what it truly means, and now realize that it has various meanings to different people. On August 29, 2012, the DC Supper Club reconvened and tackled the tough issues related to how we in the U.S. practice democracy and explored its successes and short comings. The topic seemed to be very timely as the presidential election is playing out in front of us now. The group was comprised of a number of professionals from the D.C. area and included a doctor, multiple lawyers, a teacher and even a train engineer to boot. Everyone attending was a D.C. transplant and there was a wide diversity in the group based on ethnicity, gender and local geographic background.
The conversation flowed very organically and we were able to make it through all of the possibilities in the report, but the common theme for the night seemed to be that our democracy was somehow broken. Be it what some people felt was the improper attempt by the Supreme Court to humanize a corporation by giving it a constitutional soul in the Citizens United case, or the controversial decision in Heller giving citizens the ability to own firearms as a constitutional right; the conversation sped forward and asked the serious question of how relevant the Supreme Court is in todays ever changing world. This topic tied directly into Possibilities A & B, as the groups struggled with whether the constitution in its static
form could address many of the issues raised in the context of a citizenry struggling to assert individual freedoms. This lead to a broader discussion of possibilities C&D covering how we see ourselves as citizens and whether our voices are being drowned out with the confluence of elected public officials more wed to partisan politics than showing leadership, and the Supreme Court sanctioning of corporate money and influence into the political process. The group was very cynical about whether the form of democracy in place today in the U.S. gave the common man a fair shake at thepursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
Moving to the remaining possibilities, the group was spilt on identifying ways to change the current state of our democracy. Some suggestions included standing for office, term limits, attempting to reach the youth of America and get them involved in the on-going debate on how our democracy will be shaped in the future. When addressing the remaining possibilities, while open to broader participation by individuals in the democratic process, there was a sense that adding more cooks to season the democratic stew in the form of citizen councils or similar groups would
only muddle the waters further and possibly lead to more corruption. In discussing alternatives, there seems to be a sense that as a country our hubris was holding us back from boldly forging ahead and looking at other forms of
democracy that could keep the country growing and prosperous. These alternatives included things such at changing and/or drafting a new constitution, looking at a multi-party system, and in the most general sense being open to new approaches that would allow greater participation in the democratic process.