Democracy Cafe January Notes + Plans for our February discussion

The Democracy Café meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 6:30-8:00 PM. Thanks to everyone who participated in our first great discussion. I hope you will join us again in February.

We started off reviewing the ground rules for our group

  • Learning to disagree respectfully
  • The importance of re-learning civil discourse
  • Maintaining respect
  • Being affirming
  • Acknowledging other points of view
  • From founder Chris Phillips:
    • “Radical listening is the start of radical change”
    • “Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable”

In reviewing possible topics for discussion, the group gravitated toward a discussion about how the Electoral College works, the difference between that and the popular vote, and what citizens can do to feel they are better represented.

Here are the thoughts and ideas I captured from the evening.

  • The Electoral College (EC), while not perfect, helps balance urban v. rural votes.
    • It’s based on population.
    • There are problems with the popular vote not matching the EC vote.
    • The role of Super Delegates is determined by the Democratic Party system.
    • Do other countries have something like our Electoral College?
    • The EC was put in place to override the popular vote in case the popular vote was “ill-informed”
    • With the amount and ease of viewing and hearing media today, anyone who wants to be informed has a way to do that.
  • The way our primaries run limits who most of us get to eventually vote for.
  • Re-districting shapes who gets elected across all states.
  • One person = one vote is a vital part of a democracy; all votes should count.
  • What can we do to get more people out to vote? (Currently, we average about 51%)
  • Why do we vote on the first Tuesday in November? Would other dates work better?
  • Should you not vote if you don’t know anything about the candidates?
  • Should people be given the day off to vote? How would we compensate people who work?
  • Historically, it was exciting to vote and we celebrated the right to vote; how can we get that back?
  • How do you vote if/when neither party represents you?
  • Is adding a 3rd party a good idea or does it divide an already divisive vote?
    • What if a third party replaces an existing party as the Republican Party did the Whig Party?
    • Is a third party a must for the disenfranchised – especially the Millennials?

 

Our chosen topic for our next gathering on Tuesday, 2/13 at 6:30 is:
What can we learn from other forms of government around the world?

Here are a few ideas for possible starter questions, including some from our 1/18 discussion:

  • How do governments in other countries run?
  • How are basic human rights protected?
  • How are other countries dealing with immigration issues, limits?
  • Does providing heavy social benefits and education through higher taxes help or hurt a government?
  • How is our democracy supposed to work and where are we veering off course?
  • Do other countries have something like our Electoral College? Or is the winner chosen by popular vote?
  • What can we do to get more people out to vote? (Currently we average about 51% who vote)
    • In Australia, you pay a fine if you don’t vote
    • Could we give a tax credit to those who vote?
    • Do other countries offer incentives to get more people to vote?
  • When do other countries vote? We vote on the first Tuesday in November. Would other dates/days work better?
  • How do other countries handle primaries?

You don’t need to prepare anything for our next discussion, but if you see articles you think might inform the group, please send them to me and I’ll post them here. Or bring them with you to share with the group.

Mark Hews, will be joining us in February as a co-facilitator. Mark was hired by the National Institute for Civil Discourse to spearhead the Maine chapter of their Revive Civility program. http://www.revivecivility.org/.

 

Future Possible Topics

  • Fake News; the role of social media and cable networks; determining reputable sources
  • Discuss how the balance of power works
    • The role of parties in a democracy; 3rd parties; role of ranked-choice voting
  • The role of racism and immigration in a democracy
  • How do we have equal representation in a democracy where there is such disparity in income; issues of income inequality
  •  The role of taking a knee; pledging; what is patriotism and what is nationalism?
  • The role of the military in a democracy
  • The importance of separation of church and state
  • What is the role of US democracy in the greater world picture? Is the US still a leader representing democracy?
  • How does our state and local government work?
  • Explore the role of technology in today’s democracies

Here’s a note from January Democracy participant Jan Chapman with more info about the move toward a national popular vote. Great reading! Thanks, Jan!

I enjoyed the group discussion Tuesday night and want to share for posting some information about the National Popular Vote Compact.  This interstate compact will go into effect when states with 270 electoral votes, the number required to win the presidency, enact it in their states.  States that enact the compact commit to casting all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the NPV.  In other words the compact will ensure the electoral votes are consistent with the national popular vote.  So far, it has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes (CADCHIILMAMD, NJNYRIVTWA). This compact will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes.  It has passed at least one house in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes.  It was passed in the Maine Senate in 2008 but has yet to be enacted in Maine. For much more information about the compact, who supports it, the history in Maine and every state and the rationale for it, go to nationalpopularvote.com