Participating in Our Democracy

A million people voted for Andrew Jackson in 1828.
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TRANSCRIPT

David Kennedy: Well I think individually, if we believe in the notion of democracy, as I do hope and trust citizens of this country do, I think what we must do is be well informed and engaged in the deliberative process that gives us the policies, and the practices, and the habits that we will all adopt going forward. And they’ll either be adopted with our participation, or without. And I have to believe that the policy . . . At the end of the day that we’re going to do better the more people are well informed, and the more engaged we all are. So to live in a country that is the historic home of mass participatory democracy – that is the United States – we invented the institutions, and the practices, and the values of democracy practice on the scale of millions of voters. More than a million people voted for Andrew Jackson in 1828 at a time when other societies that called themselves democratic – like Britain and France – had fewer than 100,000 voters in countries that were then quite a bit larger than we were. So we invented this thing called modern democracy; and yet in this society, only about half the people who are eligible actually exercise their right to vote. There’s something fundamentally, pathologically wrong about that. So that’s one place to start, is to get more people engaged in the delivery processes from their most local – school board, sewer district, irrigation district – that go right up to the federal level in the making of decisions that will affect us all

Recorded on: 7/4/07