In Search Of Real Solutions

Our democracy is in desperate need of repair and I fear that we are more focused on the leveling blame then searching for real solutions.

I recently penned in Op-Ed for the Washington Post describing how delusional I think scapegoating Facebook is. The overwhelming evidence shows that most voters have already made up their mind before they even read the news. Even in laboratory experiments where we can get readers to admit they previously believed false information, fact-checking has absolutely zero impact on who participants vote for President.

This is all to say that even if we can get Facebook to change its news algorithm, it’s hard to imagine that it will have much — if any — impact on the political process.

As a result, I am desperately seeking out real solutions and was hoping that the election would spark journalists to focus the nations’ attention on bridging the partisan divide.

To my knowledge, the best known solutions in political science are broadly what’s known as “deliberative democracy”, which is a set of practices that bring a random selection of citizens together to talk about the issues and then report their findings through the press.

For instance, in San Francisco, we have a process known as participatory budgeting, where large groups of citizens get to deliberate on various budget proposals, and then the voters of the city actually get to choose among the options discussed at the meetings. Its delightfully democratic.

The evidence suggests that when citizens see people like themselves engaged in thoughtful discussion, they have greater confidence in both institutions and the media that the reports reflect the values that they would have if they also participated.

One reason that the media is so distrusted is because journalists are a largely a self-selected group of technocratic coastal elites. Very few middle-Americans see themselves in the pages of the New York Times or on cable TV.

Deliberative democracy is one potential real solution, but we honestly need to focus our attention on finding a lot more. Feel free to comment in this post on very specific solutions that you may have or feel free to write your own post pointing towards other innovative ideas.

We all need to start looking for a real solutions like our democracy depended on it.