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How Do We Judge The Robustness of Our Constitutional Republic?

What is the condition of the health of our republic? By what criteria should we evaluate its vitality?

Ten years ago, I made a little speech to a Kiwanis Club and asked my listeners to answer this question: “On a scale of 0 – 100%, to what degree is our government of, by and for the people?” The average of the answers was 55%.  The attendees at that meeting agreed that our republic has a long way to go to realize its potential and that overall the vitality of our republic is weak. I’d bet, here ten years later, that same group now would give an even lower score.

Faith in the strength of our republic seems in sharp decline. Opinion can change quickly. What is needed is an objective system of evaluation that doesn’t rely on opinion. Science has identified thousands of objective indicators of health in the human system — through blood chemistry, body imaging, etc. There’s not much disagreement among scientists as to the validity of these indicators. Similarly, we need a scientific approach to understanding and evaluating the health of our constitutional republic.

We need to find criteria for system evaluation that has wide agreement. I want to create a 1000 point system of republic evaluation that becomes widely accepted as valid. I’m thinking of calling it the “Bock Scale Of Republic Robustness” (BSRR). A congressional district could be scored each year and over time the change in the constitutional health of the district could be monitored. This idea needs to be thought through but, here is my initial list of criteria:

  • Percentage of citizens who vote in general elections
  • Percentage of citizens who vote in primaries
  • Amount of competition in primaries
  • The number of active members in political party organizations
  • The degree to which political party organizations operate as small-d democracies
  • The attendance at city council and school board meetings
  • The number of citizens who are active in civic organizations
  • The number of “town halls” and candidate discussions / debates / forums
  • The percentage of citizens engaged in town halls, etc.
  • The percentage of citizens engaged in neighborhood organizations.
  • The quality and availability of civics education, youth and adult
  • The opportunities for meaningful service to community
  • The degree of transparency of elected boards and elected officials at every governmental level
  • Opportunities for meaningful contact and conversation between diverse individuals and groups.

Notice that none of the BSRR criteria are partisan. They are all non ideological. I’m thinking that within the citizenry there is a core group that is being drawn to nonpartisan activism aimed at increasing the health of the republic, aimed at getting the system to work as it should. Nonpartisan action aimed at improving or securing the common good, aimed at strengthening the republic, is the essence of patriotism. There seems a growing passion for the expression of such patriotism. What is needed is a means to channel that passion into practical work and actions that result in big increases in the BSRR.

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2 comments to How Do We Judge The Robustness of Our Constitutional Republic?

  • Chet Bauch

    Hi MIKE: Your BSRR is dead nuts on. Problem: realistically people don’t have the time to participate in these activities, with the exception of a few. Most of us, like Trump, only know what we read in the newspaper or see on TV. In talking with those who voted for Trump, a sad few have any understanding of civics. They believe that a strong president makes the laws of the land! Few understand the reason for the Electoral College or Gerrymander issues. They spout one-man-one-vote, but have NEVER called their local or fed rep mainly because they don’t know his/her name.

    Keep up your fine work, MIKE

    Regards, CHET

  • Mike Bock

    Chet — thanks for your encouragement. My reply is repeated in my post today: Making Plans For A “Small Group Of Thoughtful Committed Citizens” To Change OH-10:

    Chet, a small group — “the exception of a few” that you refer to — would make a huge impact if they were united in purpose and determination. The wise words attributed to Margret Mead comes to mind: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The DaytonOS masthead hasn’t changed in eight years. It includes this question: “How to make a better world?” Mead gives an answer — become a member of a group of thoughtful committed citizens.

    The group of “thoughtful committed citizens” that I’m imagining is: “The Fellowship Of Those Who Dare To Understand (TWDU).”

    I like the notion of fellowship, friendship. Polarized partisans can still enjoy friendship and fellowship when they are united by a connector of more importance than politics. A commitment to family or to religion usually takes precedence over politics. My thought is that TWDU fellowship would be a diverse group representing all points of view. The connector for the diverse members of TWDU would be a commitment to change the world by increasing theirs and the public’s understanding of the world in which they live. Part of each member’s commitment would be to do the work needed to understand each other and each other’s point of view.

    My thought is that the initial goal of TWDU should be to change our congressional district, OH-10. If enough citizens in OH-10 could act as group, a deliberative democracy, to bring about a big boost in theirs and the public’s understanding of issues and politics, then OH-10 would be changed. It’s all about motivation. A big goal — if it seems feasible — can be very motivating. The notion of changing OH-10 would be very motivating to a lot of citizens, particularly if there is shown a positive vision of what such change would look like.

    A good question: To change OH-10, what would it take? How many citizens would be required? My conclusion is that 1% would be more than enough, and with the right plan, engaging 1% in a close-knit group is feasible. In OH-10, 1% of registered voters amounts to 5000 citizens — about 10 in each precinct. The idea would be for this group to use the latest technology to act as an online deliberative democracy — deciding the priorities and actions of the group. The notion of networking large numbers of individuals as voting members in a direct democracy would be motivating.

    Thanks for your encouragement. Several months ago, I declared that I was putting together a plan and I’ve yet to deliver. It’s been a challenge but I’m still thinking through a five year project — based on generating the motivation and the leadership needed to establish a network of TWDU fellowships throughout OH-10.

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