Are you mentally and emotionally drained after the last year of democracy as practiced in the United States? Then we invite you to participate in the LWVA consensus meetings on charter schools January 11 and/or 12.
More of the same? Hardly! Let us count the ways in which League decision making differs from partisan politics:
|Politics as usual
||The League way
|First, the agenda for political debate is set by politicians and media. If they find something too inconvenient to mention, that issue simply is not part of the debate. And voters have no opportunity to hold elected officials accountable for past or future action on this issue, no matter how important.
||Our agenda is set by our membership at its annual meetings and state and national conventions. (The first step is “program planning”, which will also happen in January; check your calendar!) In particular, the charter school issue was placed on the LWVMA agenda at the 2015 State Convention.
|The statement by Scottie Nell Hughes on the Diane Rehm show (11/30) that it’s “all opinion”, “there is no such thing as facts” has been widely derided, although also seen as symptomatic of our times. But if she has spent her journalistic life covering only politics and politicians, perhaps we should forgive her cynical exaggeration.
||In League, we try to compile and make sense of facts, data, and other information. (Most of the groundwork is done by a study committee of volunteer League members.) Yes, eventually the goal is to arrive at a collective opinion, but that’s at the end, not the beginning. If there is a “hidden agenda”, then it is hiding in plain sight: it consists of established League Principles.
|Political campaigns, including “debates”, consist mostly of prepared talking points, spun a little differently for one audience or another. Media coverage consists either of shouting matches or uncritically "balanced" (on the one hand, on the other hand) reporting. And, of course, 30-second sound bites.
||In a League consensus meeting, we discuss open-ended questions, listening to one another and adjusting our opinions until we are able to arrive at a result that almost all of us can accept. Occasionally this is not possible. And occasionally the questions offered by the study committee are not very well formulated. But hey, even the League isn’t perfect!
|In the end, in our winner-take-all system, voters have a fairly minimal role in an election, casting a single vote, frequently in a gerrymandered district or in a state where their preferences have no chance of prevailing.
||In League, we take very seriously the requirement that all voices need to be heard. In fact, we go much further, attempting to accommodate as much as possible minority viewpoints in formulating the ultimate consensus position.
|So about half of them stay home.
||So don’t stay home! Come to one or both consensus meetings.