PPI-011-The-CDI-initiative – re/ consensus democracy (resend-2)


Richard Moore

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                       * ARTICLE / VISION *

             "The CDI - The Civic Democratic Institution"
                     Copyright 1996 by Mark Whitaker

Mark Whitaker
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Sociology

The CDI - The Civic Democratic Institution

Subject: breaking media deadlock on public mobilization: The CDI

        Would the editors please post an open institutional framework idea
of mine? It should be useful in organizing a 'plurality/consensus' around
grass-roots organizing. Secondly (and more importantly), it should be able
to maintain the framing of public debate around grass-roots organizing
through popularizing a 'citizenship' venue which avoids media reliance/spin
on popularizing ideas. People again become the transmitter of ideas, instead
of the incredible filtering processes of the media which creates a culture
that is tailor made for economic interests.  The web site is located at


        If people presently are concerned with the lack of any 'great ideas'
to inspire them, that actually is beneficial instead of problematic. The
idea is to create the framework for socialization structures which allow for
a balanced democratic expression first, and then through democratic
politics, let people determine their own interests in a more participatory
politics. This organization is designed to bring local politics into balance
with a nation-states political party politics. It is not designed to replace
anything, just add what I think is missing structurally to provide a prop
for localized mobilization getting its word out.  This would be useful if
any grass-roots organization is willing to sponsor it, and it would provide
a nice way to frame the public discourse around grass-roots as democratic,
instead of 'reactionary, or elitist, etc.'  It should 'start itself' after
it begins, as different groups compete to use the structure to frame
themselves as legitimate democratic interests, instead of being (1) ignored
by the media, or (2) considered aberrant automatically.
         In addition to my posting question, concerning, the forthcoming
book, "Globalization and the Revolutionary Imperative," could I contribute a
chapter concerning this?

        Please do all of us a favor and pass on the web site address or this
text to other interested parties. The text follows, and yes, I actually have
copyrighted it, but I am granting permission to distribute through PPI. Read on.


Mark Whitaker
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Sociology

     Dear Mark,

     Thanks for your article.  We need such positive visions
     of how people can effectively collaborate in their collective
     liberation.  We'll take this article as a first draft candidate
     for the book.  Please let us know at •••@••.•••
     what kind of changes or additional material you have in mind.

     I wonder if you're familiar with the Cuban political system?  Many
     of the mechanisms you are inventing have working counterparts there.
     You might take a look at:

                Here we have a functioning example of an extremely
                democratic process, where all segments of
                society are systematically included in policy
                setting. This proves by example that genuine
                democracy cannot be dismissed as utopian.


The CDI - The Civic Democratic Institution

With the advance of widening anomie and social polarization in the country,
I have been thinking how to create a sort of  'reintroduction' service for
peoples who are physically neighbors, but socially moving further apart.  If
you like the idea, why not start it in your hometown or local area? 

What is the purpose of the CDI?

The Civic Democratic Institution (CDI) intends to contribute a catalyst for
a vitalization of public discourse and democratic procedure. I feel this
will be particularly useful for urban politics, but its application is
equally useful for rural areas.  As has been widely noted it has been seen
as difficult to develop representative politics in larger cities. Within
this theory, representative politics can develop in smaller populations,
though even then there is no assurance that what develops will be based on
plurality. Through a two-tiered system of voting, the CDI would select for
those best called publicly recognized 'intermediaries.'  If a certain
individual does receive social recognition, it is only that--recognition.
 The CDI is nothing like an elected body for politics, but a social body
representative of a particular area. The aim of the voting is to create a
'living poll,' if you will, of a city or rural area's socio-political
outlook by honoring those whom the public admires with recognition. The aim
of the CDI is to establish a 'representative-based agora' for political

How does the CDI function?

More important than what it selects for is what the CDI institutionally
selects against including in a political process--politics of exclusion,
short term popularity, one issue popularity, and 'landslide' bloc voting
practices. I am arguing that it is mostly the institutional processes of
selection chosen which effect the manner and outcome of a political
representation as well as what types of groups are popularized and created.

The political process of the CDI aims to mitigate these four above
mobilizing processes of social recognition. In terms of short term
popularity, the structure of the CDI makes sure that this 'admiration'
doesn't get out of hand and substitute a beauty contest atmosphere for the
aim of a representative body. This is done by a second round of voting which
allows for a group vote upon the roster of citizens who were recognized in
the first round.  To further address this point, both rounds of recognition
voting are done over long stretches of time to mitigate short term
popularity as the basis for politics, and the actual 'run-off' interval is
limited to minimize polarization-- the politics of exclusion and one issue
popularity toward which long elections contribute.  In addition, by
allowing each person the ability to vote for or against each person on the
first round's roster, the politics of exclusion are mitigated by this
practice and the aforementioned dual vote: those who feel excluded will be
more likely to mobilize and to 'veto' exclusionary politics upheld in the
first round when given the chance of both a second round of voting and
either verifying or rejecting a particular person. This allowance of
a choice of voting both for and against slows reactionary politics and its
one issue popularity which is only selected for by the method of allowing
for 'pro' only roster voting: the heaping of a vote behind an equally
exclusionary politics is seen as the only option 'in self-defense,' if
 'pro' voting is all one is allowed to do. Landslide bloc voting
practices are curtailed through the dual vote which allows for a public
registering of disapproval of existing candidates in a second round instead
of making the one issue popularity of a subsequent reactionary exclusion
the only feasible solution if excluded groups wish to respond.  Through the
institutional winnowing of extremists or reductionists (or the additional
positive recognition of some moderate who only cursorily had been recognized
before), one has a set of people who have run the gauntlet of the four above
categories and could be considered politically 'legitimate' representatives
of a community, instead of only representatives of contending processes of
politics of exclusion, short term popularity, one issue popularity, and
landslide bloc voting practices.  These four processes generally are
considered the process of recognizing groups of interests in society,
instead of a system which tends to do the opposite by perpetuating
reactionary and one issue politics around short term popularity elected
through a system of bloc voting practices. Each of these four ingredients of
this 'representative finding process' finds no 'representatives' at all: 
they find individuals and interests which can be highly
unrepresentative. The CDI is designed to introduce a 'second process' to
politics, as a group of citizens beholden to the community and filtered
through several selective processes which select against the four
abovementioned political processes.

As such, they could have a beneficial effect on addressing issues of
consensus as well as providing a 'pressure group' for an airing of consensus
issues kept out of the political process. As a representative and different
pathway of politics, they would promote a consensus based forum for politics.

Particular Features or Effects of the CDI:

Nothing is a preset or institutional given, beyond the desire to recognize
reasonable people within a society, people who potentially have the
political position to be a force for moderation and compromise.

1) The CDI allows for a test drive in something sorely lacking in the world,
debate--debate on the directions of governments within society to assure
that the government is reflective of its people's interests, instead of
merely its own interest as an institution.

2)  The CDI will in addition provide a public forum for commentary upon the
government's policies by recognized popularly admired people, who have
therefore, the political wherewithal to be a voice for the community in
addressing the activities of the government, or providing their services as
'intermediaries' to achieve consensus for particular pieces of legislation
which are passed by the governmental body with knowledge that that is what
the people want or don't want.

3)  The CDI can in addition be a place to raise or bring to the public mind
issues which the government fails to address, whether by political
negligence or indifference to their constituencies.

4) In essence, I foresee the CDI operating as a checking mechanism with the
government, in a flux of mutual flow of ideas and hard data on issue
popularity, both institutions working in tandem for a better society as well
as a better and more efficient and responsive government, which is only
unresponsive sometimes when it fails to get accurate information.  The
CDI will assure that social backing of any legislation exists, instead of
there being a void between the voting and the activities of the elected
officials, into which any amount of misinformation can seep, basically
because of the structure of voting practices. The structure of the CDI will
provide an assurance of parity for governmental policy decisions.

5) Interestingly enough, the CDI will place human beings at the fore of the
fount of information, instead of institutions of television, print, radio. 
Thus the media which reports the CDI can serving an actual representation of
a cross section of society instead of mediating the message of the community
back to itself through only through what can generally be 'sold' through
pre-existing distribution channels, which can change only as society's
markets composition changes, or only as the media's advertising budgets
change. The media, with the existence of the CDI, can perform their social
duty with efficiency, as well as be assured that they will have buyers for
their coverage of information and events concerning a wide audience.
Therefore, the CDI and the media will operate on a mutually beneficial
basis, the media providing accurate coverage, and assured that their said
coverage will have wide buyers.  Each are enriched--the public society, by
appropriate media coverage, and the media, by inherently wide audiences.

6) The CDI's introduction creates a tripartite concourse of information and
feedback, creating a political process which integrates
    the people at large, assured of having selected reasonable
intermediaries by the internal checks and balances of CDI;

    the government, assured of acting on community consensus; and,

    the media, assured that their social duty can be performed and they
can remain economically viable.

How is the CDI structured?

The mechanisms of the CDI are as follows. First, a specific opening annual
date is determined before the voting of a community's first CDI and
instituted as the set date for the commencement of the first round of the
voting. The dates of course are changeable later within the structure of the
CDI voting if the community is unsatisfied or come to dislike their original
choice of the date of commencement. The first round of voting for the CDI
occurs throughout the first nine months of the annual period, its beginning
date previously set, allowing everyone one vote for anyone they choose to
vote for. Anyone's vote throughout this nine months can be withdrawn /added
for a particular person they had wished/do wish to nominate throughout the
nine month period , allowing for understandable fickleness, the potential of
someone falling out of favor with the community, or someone performing an
admirable deed which brings recognition late in the nine month span.  I
wish to make this clear: this is nothing like a manner for voting for
predetermined candidates. When I am talking about 'voting,' I am talking
about tallying totals for anyone, for any citizen, that anyone wishes to
publicly recognize as someone they admire or trust in their community. This
is a grass-roots, cultural version of representative, republican democracy--
a way to get public recognition for a wide body of local people and for a
potential local politics to develop out of their consensus. Yet it avoid the
potential pitfalls of demagoguery and single issue politics of grass roots
politics through the structuring of the two-tiers of voting and the voter
being allowed to vote for or against any nominee in the second round.  

The votes are tallied by a choice amongst community organizations or a mix
of other community organizations which feel they could do an expedient job
and are recognized publicly for such an ability in the community.  The
totals are published with wide availability by several different publishers,
in several different media, to be determined by the community. Throughout
the subsequent tenth month, people have a chance to decide and debate
publicly upon the people they have recognized individually. It is in the
tenth month that the second round of voting begins, everyone allowed a
single vote for anyone of their choice, either for or against, for as many
people as they wish. Voters can vote for or against as many people on the
billet as they want, with one vote per voter per person on the billet, as
long as they are not voting twice for the people they have voted for in the
first nine month span. The second round of voting allows both for and
against voting on the whole roster of individual nominees. The first nine
months voting is a nomination process which allows for both for and against
voting. This second round of voting ends at the commencement of the eleventh
month. Once more, differing media are employed to publish the information of
the totals, considering the 'for' votes as positive, the 'against' votes as
negative, adding or subtracting respectively from the totals of the first
round of the CDI voting. In addition, to provide social parity between the
sexes, the smallest number of a particular sex shall be the determining
factor for the equal number of the other sex in the CDI, as a means of
providing a parity and basis of socialization between the sexes publicly, in
addition to a manner of assuring that the CDI is accustomed to discussion
amongst and for both sexes equally. Before the sexual parity is achieved
though, anyone who has been recognized has the ability within the week after
the second tally (7 full days) to, if they so desire, to opt to be
unconsidered, to assure the CDI of being comprised of those interested in
the intermediary role for which their community feels they would be suited.

If a community finds that achievement of sexual parity creates a body which
is considered too large for fruitful discussion, a lower multiple (or any
multiple) of the number of the lower sex can be agreed upon to be utilized
instead of the actual number, thus still achieving sexual parity, with the
vote being conducted by the CDI as it stands before any reduction. This is
decided upon in the week after the CDI members are given the option to
withdraw from their position. If the achievement of sexual parity creates
a body which is considered by the CDI too small for fruitful discussion, a
different method of determining the size can be instituted within the
following tenth month of the subsequent year, thus giving time to see if the
phenomenon is repeated, or still holds the public's interest in the
subsequent year.

The eleventh and twelfth month of the annual year of voting (counting from
the date set which is capable of change by the community by popular
consensus if so desired every 10th month, during which the second voting for
the honorable society occurs), as well as the subsequent nine months (for a
total of eleven months) is the duration of a recognized CDI for a particular
community.  This CDI can set its own meeting times and places and can change
them throughout the eleven months of their recognition if they so desire.
The accumulation of votes for the next first round of the voting for the
subsequent CDI occur on the same specified date as the year before, unless
within the second round of voting for the presently recognized CDI the dates
of commencement of the first round of voting were changed. To assure that
the community is granted at least 5 months to accumulate a different mean
total for first round voting, any proposed change of the opening of
the first round of voting which shortens the first round voting interval of
the next CDI to less than 5 months shall not be allowed. Changes in the
voting times occur only during the subsequent CDI's second round of voting
and the present CDI is the only body which can table such a motion, with the
vote being decided by the community voting at large at the subsequent second
round voting for the subsequent CDI. If passed this subsequent CDI's
placement extends to the new set date of the installment of the next CDI.

The two months before the first round of voting commences once more are
structured for the community to witness and judge for themselves the
efficacy of the people they voted for and recognized, before commencing to
see if they would like them to serve once more, or be removed, in the
subsequent CDI.  If the case of an individual dying while a member of the
honorable society, their position will be offered to the one next in line,
considering that of course any subsequent inclusion can change the sexual
parity, which can be adjusted concurrently by offering the newly created
position to the next who would achieve sexual parity. If no such person
exists, then the CDI will continue unchanged. The CDI, by its consensus,
sets its own agendas of discussion and introduction, its own researches, its
own trips, its own role in the community, its own places of meeting, as well
as the manner of  procedurally deterring its own consensus, if committee
votes are to be taken.

Even if they don't get along, valuable information in the form of societal
recognition of itself is achieved--without the frustration of electing
officers to governmental institutions and discovering that they refuse to
work together, or even worse agree together to do nothing. With the CDI,
these situations can be addressed within the society, and then governmental
policy can be purposefully achieved with a community consensus backing it.

 The honorable society can be a testing service if you will for future
political conceptions, and a much desired place to air public opinions in an
era grown hard and silent due to political polarization, where few
intermediaries can be found. The CDI selects for intermediaries, and as such
is a force for political consensus and peaceable discussion in society.
It is not a requirement to have a politics which devolves around the four
above categories of politics of exclusion, short term popularity, one issue
popularity, and 'landslide' bloc voting practices. These are not inherent
problems in politics and unsolvable, but are caused by specific
institutional structures which select for them. To introduce something else
is to consciously understand the processes of political formulation and
design structures which dampen or select against unrepresentative political
effects. The CDI makes headway in that direction.

Copyright 1996. (special permission granted for non-profit distribution


                  "Seeking an Effective Democratic
                      Response to Globalization
                        and Corporate Power"

         - an international workshop for activist leaders -
*>--->  June 25 <incl> July 2 - 1998 - Nova Scotia - Canada

       > Organized by: Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance <

                  Restore democratic sovereignty
                  Create a sane and livable world
             Bring corporate globalization under control.

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