Non-Partisan Action Is Needed To Strengthen And Support Our Local Democracy

The state of our democracy should be a big concern to all citizens. We give a lot of praise to democracy, but the truth is, here in Montgomery County we suffer from a weak democracy. The evidence is clear that the Dayton region is disadvantaged because our weak democracy results in poor leadership and bad decisions.

Democracy, in a sense, is like the free market; the theory of democracy, like the theory of the free market, is that quality and good results comes from competition. The free market has produced a lot of wealth and a lot of opportunities that a centrally controlled market would never produce. And democracy has produced more freedom and more justice and contributed to the general good much more than other forms of government. But, both democracy and the free market break down when competition is unfair, when information is controlled and limited, when power brokers find a way to make the playing field uneven.

A good principle of organization is that it is probably not a good idea to allow the foxes to guard the chicken house. Our markets continually are destabilized by ignoring this principle and our democracy is denigrated for the same reason.

Our democracy relies too much on political parties. The driving force of political parties is a passion to win, not a passion to advance democracy, not a passion to advance the general good. Allowing democracy to be guarded by political parties violates the fox guarding the chicken rule. There is little advantage to local political parties, in the current state of our democracy, to encourage vigorous citizen debate or to encourage a process where the best and most qualified candidates can emerge. The driving goal of our local political parties is to win and since spending energy on educating the public or in invigorating democracy might well make winning more difficult, political parties are not interested.

Why doesn’t a political party in Montgomery County, for example, help organize neighborhood or community meetings where candidates could meet with voters? Why doesn’t a political party in Montgomery County involve itself in in-depth education of the public concerning issues facing our region? Such actions might make our democracy more effective, but such actions will detract from a party’s marketing efforts and overall will not contribute enough to the “wins” of a political party to make the party interested.

Citizens are tired of simple minded partisan politics where they are given little choice and where they have little opportunity to impact the process. Citizens long for a vital democracy. We are in an era, I believe, where citizens are looking beyond partisan politics and increasingly will welcome nonpartisan approaches dedicated to invigorating democracy. What percentage of citizens fit into this group, I don’t know. But if interested citizens would work together as a group, even a small group could have a big impact. The League of Women Voters is one such nonpartisan group that seeks to make our democracy more effective. Grassroots Dayton is a new group, also a nonprofit 501C (3), that is just getting started, with a different approah from the League’s, but whose goal, like the League’s, is to make our democracy more effective. Grassroots Dayton’s stated goal is, “to promote the development of citizen democracy in the Dayton region.”

Anyone interested in knowing more about Grassroots Dayton, or wanting to help the Grassroots Dayton organization effort, is invited to come to a meeting tomorrow, May 29, starting at 5:00 PM at the Oakwood Library Meeting Room (in the basement). We will discuss ideas outlined in this article, “How Grassroots Dayton Can Build Democracy By Building Community.” More details about the meeting can be found here.

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