Local Politics

'Redesigning democracy' pondered at NCSU summit

Posted December 9, 2012
Updated January 4, 2013

— Former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. called for greater grassroots involvement in democracy as national and state leaders in politics, technology, design and public policy gathered at the Redesigning Democracy Summit to brainstorm ways to understand and improve citizen engagement in the democratic process in the United States.

"We need to fix it," said Hunt, chairman of the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University. "We must redesign it if we're going to keep it, in my opinion."

Redesigning Democracy Summit: Best practices for public engagement Redesigning Democracy Summit: Best practices for public engagement

Lessons learned from the 2012 campaign season were the topics of the Sunday night panel discussion with Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org; Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Center's Internet & American Life Project; and Matt Motyl, founder of CivilPolitics.org.

"We can make democracy work from the grassroots up, involving all of the people," Hunt said.

Americans are more polarized than at any time in Pew's polling history, and their trust all public institutions except for the military has dropped in the 21st century, Rainie said.

While the Internet has expanded the "zone of argumentation," he said, social media have enabled people outside of the elite to participate in the political process. Blades said she's seen that in her work with MoveOn.org and MomsRising.org.

The two political parties have solidified diverging visions of America and the role of government, Norquist said. Moytl said that when discussing politics, people should seek to understand different viewpoints, rather than to persuade others.

The panelists debated whether democracy could be strengthened by having multiple political parties, making election day a holiday, and increasing civics education in high school, among other ideas.

"People are turning away from public life," said Hunt. "It is important that we find ways to bring new ideas and citizens into our efforts to work together."

Democracy in America

The IEI is hosting a cross-section of invited speakers representing various regions and political agendas, who are sharing creative, promising practices and discovering new ways to encourage citizen participation.

"There is so much at stake. As global dynamics, emerging technologies and social patterns change our national landscape, we face complicated challenges,” said IEI Director Anita Brown-Graham. 

Monday sessions, including one moderated by WRAL Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie,  will address ways to make U.S. democracy more responsive to the public. Former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr and UNC System President Tom Ross are expected to participate.

The public is invited to participate in the event using Twitter (#RDS12).


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  • heisenberg Dec 11, 2012

    Institute term limits for all offices and do away with the ridiculous perks

  • weasel2 Dec 11, 2012

    So the Democrats want to redesign democracy. Guess they want to call oh something like arsitocracy, communism, fuedalism

  • NYtoNC81 Dec 11, 2012

    ConservativeVoter: Our ancestors had it right when they only allowed property owners to vote.

    This was to keep those who didn't pay taxes from voting to get entitlements and freebies from the government.

    Much what happened with Obama's coalition of welfare and entitlement receivers who've elected him twice.

    Me: This... is crazy talk. You seriously can't believe this can you? So, I, with two advanced degrees, a job closer to six figures than not, who has never taken a dime from the federal or state government should not be able to vote because I rent and don't own land?

    I don't even know what to say. Ignorance has won the day.

  • tayled Dec 11, 2012

    But where does freedom of speech under the first amendment end and where do the lies and outright fabrications that some of these PAC ads purport every election end? I think we need to take these ads and filter them through our, hopefully, more reasonable selves and ask ourselves what is really the truth behind them. No, we cannot stop them, but we need to be more savvy about what is in them.

  • Mom120 Dec 11, 2012

    OK redesigning it is a good way to start..
    1) get rid of the retirement benefits (spiffs) the lackey's get in DC.. make them pay into a 401K and be vested after 5 years like the rest of us.
    2) put them on Medicare like the rest of us

  • junkmail5 Dec 10, 2012

    Everyone keeps parroting "campaign reform!" and "overturn citizens united!" without explaining what they plan to do about that pesky first amendment...

    If I'm rich and want to speak about a candidate, including print ads, TV and radio airtime, internet ads and websites, and whatever else, you CAN NOT make that illegal.

    It defies one of the fundamental rights of Americans to speak freely on politics and government.

    The only thing citizens united really changes is that I can now pool my money with a bunch of other people who share the same ideas.

    That ALSO shouldn't be illegal under the first amendment (and is why Citizens United was decided the way it was).

    Until someone has an answer for that you're not getting anywhere.

    The real reason they passed citizens united was because Ron Paul was raising more cash LEGALLY than either party.

    No...he really wasn't.

    He had one amazingly good quarter in 2008 where he outraised all the republican candidates. Hillary raised more

  • rpd911 Dec 10, 2012

    We are a Representative Republic, not a democracy. The problem is our elected officials are too concerned with getting re-elected. It is time we get someone in office who represents the people who put them there, not an interest in a political career, but an interest in serving the public. Congress was never meant to be a career, it was a service. www.facebook.com/embler4senate

  • radium Dec 10, 2012

    This is just political smoke and mirrors, trying to put forth a false effort to make it seem they want to fix things when in fact they're the ones that broke it so it would benefit them and their pimps, the lobbyists. It is clear what has to be done, and they'll never do it, repeal Citizens United, take corporate money out of the elections, pass a law that for a TV station to get an FCC license they have to provide free air time to all candidates during elections, and institute term limits of eight years for ALL members of government. While the politicians have to act like prostitutes begging for money to get reelected or stay in office they can't represent we the people, it's a conflict of interest. Money and Democracy don't mix. They will fight Campaign Reform till the bitter end and the people revolt. Both sides are equally guilty, just look what they did to Ron Paul. The real reason they passed citizens united was because Ron Paul was raising more cash LEGALLY than either party.

  • suzanf Dec 10, 2012

    Very simply, we no longer have much of a democracy left. Whoever can raise the most money with "secret" super pacs wins. Campaign Reform now -- everyone gets to spend the same money for every race - or have the govt host small websites for the candidates AND THAT"S IT.

  • karbattle1 Dec 10, 2012

    Last I checked we are in a representative republic..