I had the opportunity to attend the Tea Party event on April 15th and since then, I have had the chance to read a few pieces in the Statesboro Herald that affirm what appears to be the guiding principles of the movement: small government, low taxes and free-market enterprise.
There also seems to be a general feeling that the American public is being sold out, that our hard-earned money is being given to benefit major corporations and financial institutions that have intimate ties with our representatives. But "throwing out the incumbents" as the Partiers argue is not the answer.
The problem is the system. It's time to rethink the limitations of the Constitution, which (despite the historic mythology) never created a government of the people, for the people, by the people. In fact, the (secret) Second Constitutional Convention, which followed Shay's Rebellion, sought to limit the power of the people.
As I publicly suggested at the Tea Party event what we desperately need is real government of the people, for the people, by the people. What we need is an institution that can actualize participatory democracy and ensure public accountability.
Dr. John McCormick (University of Chicago) has proposed a People's Assembly of 50 ordinary citizens chosen by state lottery for a one-year non-renewal term to study and debate the current decisions of government. The job of the People's Assembly would be study both the pros and cons of public policies in a deliberative way with the guidance of non-partisan experts on a particular policy in question. The assembly would have the right each year to veto one law, one Supreme Court decision or one Executive Order that it believed harmed the common good.
Only a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court would be able to veto its judgment. The Assembly would also reserve the right to place a questionable policy before the American people in a national referendum and to initiate impeachment proceedings against any official believed to have betrayed the public trust. The idea is to create a check on elite government, one that would provide a meaningful voice to the people and also provide for official accountability.
I believe that the American people, if given a meaningful chance to participate in the life of the nation and, if provided good information, can make wise and fair decisions. After all, that is the very fundament of democratic governance.
While I don't personally agree with the Tea Partiers that smaller government, lower taxes and more free-market are the answers to our collective crisis, I do believe that we can find common ground regardless of whether we call ourselves liberals, conservatives or something in-between. What matters is that the American people are starting to take note of the need for substantive reform of our system. We need to work together despite our ideological differences.
Debra Sabia, Ph.D.