Well, we have had a taste of modern direct democracy and realized how sour it can be. During the first emergent democracy discussions I raised my concern with direct democracy and history repeating itself.
Initiatives, Referedums and Recall were reform elements that Progressives fostered at the turn of the last century were a byproduct of the industrial revolution. Citizens realized the power of businesses to shape their lives and politics, the beginnings of the middle class were empowered to take action, and the Progressive party emerged as a considerable force. California was the first state to codify recall. The core concept was to make politicians more responsive and accountable to the voice of the people. A populist 3rd party movement that, like all 3rd party movements, were adopted by both parties. Generally this has been a good thing, providing a fourth branch in government for checks and balances.
But things have changed over the past 100 years. Today direct reform is driven by spending rather than speech. Instead of the masses demanding reform, all it takes is a the wealth to fund professional petition drivers. Spending is not speech.
At first glance such a concept is attractive, but not everyone can vote with their wallets, it is not an equal right. Some would distort the foundering intent and written word of the US constitution to say that spending should be protected as speech for backing campaigns. Some would distort the foundering intent and written word of the California constitution to say that yesterday's recall was a populist movement of reform. The founders got it right that representative democracy should give elected officials an opportunity to be representative through their terms. Progressives were right that such extreme power needs to be held in check.
So now we have the People's Governor (kind of like the People Mover, or Volkswagen, auf Deutsch). At first Democrats will have to lay low to not be perceived as barriers to popular will. But we are in a state of continual election. Within less than six months for the slightest excuse, most likely Arnold's no-tax-pledge-hole, and we will all be considering running for Governor again. People are fed up with the status-quo, but deep down, I have to believe that the masses are not asses, and they want reform instead of circus in our fair State.
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. Dean's local deliberation and socialization of issues is counter to debate within media and binary referendum decisions. Dean's ability to leverage McCain-Feingold's matching contributions to raise funds at the grassroots level crushes even the specialist interest.
I am gravely concerned that the present abberation of direct democracy will compound the underlying divide of trust between politicians and polity. Trust is earned. It is not fostered by citizens with direct control over politicians, as sometimes we need them to save us from ourselves. It is when each has control over the other, a careful balance is struck, extremes are reprimanded, iterations are built upon.
I have hope in the newfound ability for citizens to socialize the issues. Be it a Meetup. Be it blogging. Be it how people in our State actually talk about politics again. When issues are socialized, deliberation give rationale to decisions, people gain the comfort of others to change their minds and new action can take root.
We are just beginning to realize the change afoot from the information revolution and react to it, as progressives did with the industrial revolution. There may again be a need for politicians to be more responsive, but to the same wealthy constituency that fuels institutional pluralism. Individualized pluralism favors impulsed opinions and the minority as well.
A next stage in direct democracy cannot be reached without policy and tools to build trust with leaders, socialize issues and the chance to participate in process equal to the lobby and those who hire them. Premature attempts to go direct will only bastardize the process as it was yesterday.