Peter Levine had an important article published on the Huffington Post yesterday titled The Path Not Taken (So Far): Civic Engagement for Reform. The article outlines the Obama Administration’s failure–so far–to engage the public in our great national challenges.
In his article, Peter writes…
Candidate Obama argued that positive change comes from organized social movements, not from the government alone. Social movements should be broad-based, not narrow groups of people who all agree with one another. They should promote discussion and collaboration across lines of difference–including ideological difference.
As he said in May 2007, “politics” usually means shouting matches on TV. But “when politics gets local, when the person talking to you is your neighbor standing on your front porch, things change.” In that speech, he called for dialogues in every community on Iraq, health care and climate change.
Later, on Obama’s executive order on transparency, participation and collaboration, Peter writes…
“Transparency” came to mean feeding information to organized interest groups, reporters, and a few independent citizens who have deep interests and skills in particular areas. Participation and collaboration have not been part of the agenda since Inauguration Day.
Service and transparency are not nearly “edgy” enough; there is no fight in them. People are angry – from the Tea Partiers to MoveOn. When citizens try to solve serious social problems, they identify enemies. They do not just hold hands and serve together; they strike back at those whom they perceive as threats. “Active citizenship” reduced to non-controversial “service” or downloading government data completely loses touch with the legitimate anger of the American people.