In recent days, a vigorous argument has broken out about the role of the public in strengthening the democratic fabric of the United States. Last summer, Jonathan Rauch provocatively argued in the pages of The Atlantic that we need to strengthen the role of political intermediaries and institutions (read: parties and other political professionals) rather than elevate the role of an uninformed and angry public. Here’s where he ends: “You haven’t heard anyone say this, but it’s time someone did: Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around.” He’s since gone on to pair up with Benjamin Wittes to write a paper for Brookings entitled “More professionalism, less populism: how voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it.” And then, last week, Lee Drutman from the New America Foundation wrote in Vox that “more participation won’t save us.”

As you can imagine, this has caused quite a stir among those who spend their waking hours trying to ensure that citizens and community members have meaningful opportunities to participate in democratic governance. We thought it was important to take the debate that is raging on email and on Facebook pages and share it here in one place. With a lead-off piece from Jessie Conover of Healthy Democracy, we  invite you to submit your responses to Rauch and Wittes and Drutman but also your responses to the responses. The guiding questions to prompt your thinking: What if more public participation can’t save American—or global—democracy? What if it can?

Please send your responses to, and I’ll post them here. Looking forward to hearing from you.