To redesign democracy, the U.S. should borrow an idea from Dublin

Article by Claudia Chwalisz and Zia Khan: “…Let’s start with some of the mechanics: The typical citizens’ assembly convenes community members from all walks of life to study, deliberate, and provide recommendations to policy questions on behalf of the larger public. Crucially, these representatives are randomly selected through a lottery (also known as sortition) and serve temporarily, as with jury duty.The idea is to reach beyond the typical folks who show up at a school board meeting or that run for office but instead engage a true cross-section of the community. Assemblies make every citizen a potential representative of the people, not just a vote to be turned out. 

While citizen’s assemblies were eclipsed as a tool of governance as elections came to define democracy, the idea actually dates back to ancient Athens and shaped early democratic institutions in America, like the jury system. Now, as the United States grapples with its own challenges of division and discord and the 2024 elections loom, this old idea points us toward new ways of giving people real voice and power. 

Assemblies can create good conditions for people to have honest conversations, grapple with tradeoffs, and understand different points of view. As shown in other equally diverse and large countries, citizens’ assemblies can be instrumental in addressing issues that have proven particularly divisive or have been susceptible to political stagnation, such as homelessnessclimate changeland usesafety and policingabortiontransgender rightsmigration, and others.

In most places, assemblies have been only advisory thus far—but the moral authority of speaking on behalf of the people and hard-won consensus can be powerful. In Ireland and many other places, they’ve been organized by public authorities as a way to supplement input from elected officials…(More)”.