Letter to President Zelenskyy

Mr. Volodymyr Zelenskyy
President of Ukraine
11 Bankova St. 01220 Kyiv, Ukraine

Re: A proposal to fight corruption with local citizen assemblies

Dear President Zelenskyy:

First, thank you for your remarkable leadership. I wish you all the best in defending, restoring and advancing the well-being of Ukraine and its brave people.

I am writing with a suggestion that, if adopted, has the potential to advance Ukraine as a leading innovator in democratic governance. The proposal would also counteract the criticisms of American politicians who question ongoing funding for your nation — often citing government corruption as one of the justifications for curbing that support.

Perhaps you are aware of growing European interest in “citizens’ assemblies” whose members are chosen by sortition, a democratic lottery process, rather than by election. Ireland, for example, has successfully used citizen assemblies to resolve some of its most politically divisive issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, climate change. Two of Belgium’s regional parliaments (German-speaking Ostbelgien and the Brussels-Capital region) have established permanent sortition-selected citizens’ assemblies to counterbalance the power of professional politicians in the elected assemblies.

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The True Representation Pledge

This is the final chapter from my book published last year entitled “True Representation: How Citizens’ Assemblies and Sortition Will Save Democracy.”

What if we were to demand that every candidate for President, Senate and House of Representatives sign a True Representation Pledge? The pledge strategy can be used in any election, in any country, at the national, state, provincial or local level, wherever people want to demonstrate the potential of sortition and citizens’ assemblies, by targeting an important issue that politicians cannot resolve.

In signing the pledge, each candidate would promise, upon being elected to office, that:

  • They would quickly enact legislation to authorize and fund a national (or state, provincial or local) citizens’ assembly to decide an important issue, identified for the pledge.
  • The citizens’ assembly would be conducted with a briefing book prepared to fairly represent the pros and cons of a wide range of views on the chosen issue.
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What If A Citizens’ Assembly Decided Trump’s Second Impeachment?

(Written before President Trump’s second impeachment trial on January 18, 2021)

The U.S. House of Representatives has impeached President Donald Trump for a second time, but the Senate will not conduct its trial until after Trump has left office.

The difference between political and deliberative decision-making is that one is based on winning the next election and the other is based on seeking the truth. Professional politicians do not deliberate. They calculate. With each decision, the underlying consideration is the impact it will have on votes and donations.

Republican Senators will consider convicting Trump, but most are afraid, not only of Trump supporters hurting their chances in the next election, but of Trump supporters hurting them physically. Senator Lindsay Graham briefly broke with Trump, declaring that “enough is enough.” But he was soon advising the President again after being threatened by angry Trump supporters at an airport.

Few politicians have the integrity or courage of Justin Amash, the lone Republican congressman who voted to impeach President Trump in 2017, knowingly sacrificing his seat in Congress. Or the ten Republican representatives who voted for a second Trump impeachment, with Liz Cheney boldly stating that Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”

While some of his opponents think Trump should be tried, convicted and banned from holding federal office in the future, others argue that a failure to convict him in the Senate will strengthen him politically and still others claim that if he’s out of office the process is not legal.

I’d like to suggest a novel resolution. What if we let “the people” decide?

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