While Lessig and Searls accept the legitimacy of the democratic recall, some of our Emergent Democracy advocates are having a hard time with the people’s judgment.
Ross Mayfield tries to convey an untenable distinction between Emergent Democracy as an exercise of the pure of heart in contrast to the Big Money pollution that envelopes government in a capitalist economy:
Emergent Democracy should differ from Direct Democracy. Self-organization, deliberation, and citizen driven initiatives — where the constraint is equal interest of the people — is in stark contrast to modern direct democracy. Dean’s decentralized organization is in contrast to professional pertitioners.
Joi Ito beats the tom-toms in favor of grass-roots elitism as an alternative to the rule of the unwashed masses:
Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots. It’s the difference between a couch potato clicking the vote button and a group of people starting their own Dean coalition group.
And Mitch Ratcliffe chimes in with some loud clucks against The Politicians:
The question in emergent democracy is how to make everyone a politician, again. In early democracies, every citizen–a narrowly defined group of patricians, in most cases–was expected to be involved. The problem we have today is that most citizens leave politics “to the professionals” and then complain that they feel alienated from the system.
This is an awfully pure and austere model, where the people have to each and every one take the time out of their busy days to study each and every issue for themselves in order to govern without representatives, or at least without paid ones.
The question that it raises following the recall is, of course, how the people — even when armed with super-fantastic blogware — can make detailed policy decisions if they can’t be trusted by the technical elite to make basic personnel decisions as we did in the recall.
And if a Dean Meetup is an example of Emergent Democracy and good, how can it be that a group of grass-roots volunteers lead by Ted Costa organizing a petition drive is bad? When Ted Costa let Darrell Issa pay some signature gatherers a pittance ($1.5M, compared to the $10M Davis spent warping the Republican primary) wasn’t that an example of leading by giving up control?
Obviously, Emergent Democracy is any process that defeats the Republican Party, whether it’s in Sacramento, Washington, or Baghdad, and the process is utterly unimportant.
UPDATE: Ratcliffe says I’ve got him all wrong. What he really wants is:
…citizens should be able to organize to address specific issues without having to embrace the top-down plans of government. That means organizing to have their own representatives on specific issues, figuring out ways to pay them (enough money flows in politics–it’s an industry) to hive off some portion of a living from being involved in one’s community.
It appears to me he’s just described the Recall. Citizens organized to address the problem of Gray Davis’ lack of honesty and leadership, and rather than relying on his top-down leadership style (“the legislature is here to implement my vision”) they replaced him with a man who represented their values. They figured out how to pay for the recall by putting their own money up, and they hired campaign consultants and attorneys to remove the barriers erected by the ACLU, the Casinos, the labor unions, and the other anti-democratic forces in California.
If you like democracy, of any kind, you have to love the recall.