Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
People were equally outraged about the Iraq war. Outrage is easy to manufacture or harness. The problem is more that only certain kinds of outrage are being supported and manipulated.

The best comment about democracy from the US in over a decade was from Howard Dean, who said that just voting barely gets you a pass. People seem to have this peculiar idea that democracy = voting, but in fact democracy means citizen involvement.

If you all you do is vote, all you'll get is nothing much.

This secret has been systematically hidden away over the last few decades, but it's key to reintroducing active democracy and making non-entities like Piebalgs accountable for their lack of insight.

The US has made a start, but the netroots has been cleverly co-opted by Obama, who is a charismatic leader, but not - I think - a true democrat.

What makes Obama successful is a combination of personal charisma and the illusion of personal involvement. In Obama's campaign it's only an illusion, because knocking on doors won't give people a say in policy. He's converting a hunger for citizen participation into grunt work. But he's not promising that he's going to listen to the people who are doing that work.

In a true democracy you'd have charismatic leaders - not much seems to happen without them - but you'd also have explicit mechanisms for dialogue and involvement. The mechanisms for mandates which we have now are poor substitutes.

One of the dirty little secrets of politics is that politicians exist so that the population as a whole doesn't have to take personal responsibility for political consequences.

So I'm not sure people are ready for this. The idea that democracy is as much about sharing individual and personal responsibility for outcomes as it is about mandating policy seems to be a novel one.

But you can't have true democracy without personal involvement. This doesn't mean that everyone has to be involved in every decision, but that there have to be paths and mechanisms for public dialogue and public decision making which aren't just popularity contests.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 09:28:54 PM EST
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