Hello Friends and Fellows of Deliberative Democracy–

Happy New Year! Despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary, I have high hopes for democracy in 2018. I see your posts on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram—as well as your year-end newsletters—and I feel tremendously buoyed by knowing you are all out there thinking and writing and doing projects.  Heaps of gratitude coming to each of you from here on the West Coast of North America.

Philanthropy in a Democracy
Our friends over at PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement) recently released their 2017 Year in Review. I was particularly struck by this finding: “Through our exploration, we are finding that this moment of divisiveness and hyperpartisanship is a reflection of a disconnect between the way democratic institutions engage citizens and the ways in which citizens understand their own social identity — their own lives, jobs, religious views, race, gender, geography, and other variables.”

Then there’s this and this on participatory grant-making as a response to this particular political and social moment.

And then over at Boston Review, Professor Robert Reich grapples with the question What Are Foundations For?, particularly in a democratic society. Reich examines the critiques of (retired) Judge Richard Posner and provides a vision for how foundations—can and sometimes do—play a constructive and creative role in a democracy.

How we behave
These animated images of the U.S. political divide helped me really understand—and feel—the increase in political contentiousness across the culture. Meanwhile, I ran across this essay from last spring in which Steven Bullock argues that politeness is an essential democratic value.  Apparently, he recently published a whole book on the matter.

Then there’s this piece by Richard Reeves on what he calls “trickle down norms.” Warning here: This is a piece that made me feel argumentative and prickly all over, but it is fascinating and worth the read.

Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste
The good folks at New America recently published a report entitled “Building Civic Capacity in an Era of Democratic Crisis.” New America fellows Hollie Russon Gilman and K. Sabeel Rahman examined some of the cultural and political forces that are straining democracy and then analyzed several promising case studies.  One of the highlights: “By investing in the underlying infrastructure and capacities that enable grassroots communities to mobilize, organize, and exercise political power, we can not only create better forms of accountability and responsiveness, but also construct more inclusive solidarities.”

A Friendly Tussle
Over the last month, there has been a little discussion among DDCers about the centrality of deliberative values to a robust democratic society.  Peter Levine began the discussion with his provocatively titled post, “why the deliberative democracy framework doesn’t quite work for me.”  My favorite quote from Peter’s piece: “But a good citizen may be hard-working, physically courageous, or aesthetically creative instead of especially good at deliberating. The people who physically built the Athenian agora were as important as the people who exchanged ideas in it.”  My response to Peter’s piece can be found here.

Don’t Look at Congress
Here, Penn Law Professor Cary Coglianese takes Congress to task for its deliberative failures in passing the recent tax reform legislation. He even goes so far as to say: “The first democratic value can be called “’democracy as deliberation.’”

That’s it for now. Remember, if you are interested in becoming a member of DDC, contact me at wendywddc@gmail.com

Keep doing all that beautiful work! And stay in touch . . .