November 5th Coalition    

The November 5th Coalition is a new collaborative initiative dedicated to using the 2008 presidential election as an opportunity to foster deliberation about how we can collectively mobilize the energies and talents of ordinary citizens to address our challenges. We believe the campaign can be a watershed, where citizens reclaim their standing as partners of a government that is truly “of, by, and for the people.” The Coalition is named for the day after the election, when we hope a new chapter in our civic work begins – a partnership between voters and elected officials.

NCDD is involved in this initiative, as is Harry Boyte of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Peter Levine of CIRCLE of the University of Maryland, Cynthia Gibson and others affiliated with the Case Foundation, Will Friedman and others at Public Agenda, and more.

How You Can Get Involved…

  • Join others around the country in signing and publicizing the November Fifth Coalition Declaration at (also posted below)
  • Push out our message of “citizen politics” by writing a letter to the editor, posting a comment on a blog, or calling in to a radio show.
  • Get other people thinking and talking about how to change politics through house meetings, community discussions, or conversations in your congregation, neighborhood, or workplace (see guide on housemeetings at
  • Attend political debates and ask questions that challenge candidates to think differently about their role and working with citizens (see sample questions at
  • Contribute to the November 5th Coalition
  • Tell us what you’re doing in your community by contacting us [email protected].

We believe that we have the momentum, the opportunity, and the power to help make “we the people” the architects and agents of a new democracy. And we hope you’ll join us.

The November 5th Coalition Declaration:

Enough is enough. America’s politics should be driven by the priorities of the people, not sound bites, special interest money, partisan gridlock, and polarizing rhetoric.

It is time for a change.

We believe that politics cannot and should not be a spectator sport. No politician, party or ideology will solve America’s mounting problems alone. Only by providing authentic opportunities for the people to be part of the solution can we rebuild trust in our political institutions and create mandates for meaningful action on the critical issues facing our nation.

We challenge candidates and each other to recognize lessons from communities across the nation and around the world where citizens have played vital roles in addressing difficult problems that range from health care to education reform, from keeping communities safe to climate change. We need an outpouring of ideas about how Americans can build on this history, developing skills of working together across divisions of party, faith, race, income, and geography to address common issues. Such work is difficult. But it is crucial.

The November 5th Coalition is an all-partisan alliance committed to civic partnerships that address our biggest challenges. The Coalition is named for the day after the election in 2008 when a new chapter of America’s civic history begins. Wherever the people gather they should be able to ask candidates “November 5th questions” about how they plan to tap the talents of the whole society, instead of posing as superheroes who will solve our problems for us. We will also develop leadership networks and civic policies that can serve as resources for a new administration. We encourage our fellow citizens to join with us in calling on candidates to rise above excessively divisive partisanship and to promote the common good.

We invite all Americans to help us shape a new civic politics that can galvanize the energies of the nation, drawing us from the shopping mall back into the public square. We must renew Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” to achieve a rebirth of liberty and justice for all in the 21st century.


Unless we intervene effectively, the 2008 campaign will follow a sadly predictable script. Candidates will present themselves as the solutions to our problems, and will blame our difficulties on rival politicians. Candidates will argue for expanding, cutting, or reorganizing the government, as if government and political leaders were the only responsible and powerful actors. The press will treat the campaign as a horse race, as if the most important question were: Who will win? Reporters will provide some stories about “issues,” but they are unlikely to feature citizens working with government and so again, it will all be about the government. At all levels of government, wealth, connections, and fame will confer obvious advantages. And voters will continue with the fantasy that we can vote someone in who fixes our problems, rather than acknowledging our collective responsibility for meeting our public challenges and taking care of the commonwealth.

The November Fifth Coalition intends change the process and the content by raising awareness of the dramatic changes now taking place in local politics. Despite the flawed national political system, a new generation of citizen-centered work has arisen, rebuilding an ethos and practice of collective responsibility for our common fate. These include a great range of efforts, from watershed restoration to inner city citizen projects to build affordable housing and create safe neighborhoods, from middle class organizing in suburbs to tame the forces like overscheduling and hypercompetitive birthday parties that undermine family life, to citizen-led education reform efforts.

There are many new forms of discussion and action involving large numbers of citizens working with government, community-focused “wikis” and social networking websites, and many other efforts that engage citizens directly in solving public problems. All kinds of leaders are initiating these efforts, from mayors, police chiefs, and school superintendents to community organizers and youth activists. Because of this explosion of civic experiments and innovation, we know more than ever before about how to create effective citizen government interactions, and how to begin to rebuild local civic cultures in which engagement becomes part of the “DNA” of community life. We should be past the point where candidates can utter vague, civic-sounding pronouncements without saying how they intend to implement them.

Citizen-centered work is robust, diverse, and sophisticated. It is addressing increasingly large-scale issues, from global warming to the reconstruction of the Gulf. And it is a subterranean movement that is renewing the sense of democracy as the work of us all. The November Fifth Coalition will draw public attention to this movement during the campaign season, propose policies that will support civic work, promote discussion of political reforms, and create better opportunities for citizens to interact with campaigns. The relationship between citizens and government is undergoing a dramatic shift; it is time for our elections to reflect that fact.


We will intervene by:

  • Creating an environment in which it pays for candidates to engage with other politicians and citizens in more authentic, productive, citizen-centered ways. Modeling better forms of interaction between candidates and voters.
  • Making it more difficult for candidates to get away with fake versions of civic engagement on the campaign trail (such as town meetings that are scripted and controlled).
  • Creating an environment in which it pays for candidates to propose serious policies, programs, or ways of governing that will enhance citizen-centered politics. Making visible and strengthening the array of policy options and ideas for citizen-centered politics.
  • Reconceiving the campaign as about all of us — and what we will all do after the election, not simply to get someone elected.
  • Using the campaign season to direct attention to citizen-centered activities that are already going on and groups already doing public work.
  • Ensuring that we have a political system and democracy that welcomes the participation of everyone (rather than prohibiting it).

Core Members of the November 5th Coalition

  • HARRY C. BOYTE, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, University of Minnesota
  • ELAINE ESCHENBACHER, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, University of Minnesota
  • WILL FRIEDMAN, Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE), Public Agenda
  • CHRIS GATES, PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement)
  • CYNTHIA GIBSON, Cynthesis Consulting
  • SANDY HEIERBACHER, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation
  • ELIZABETH HOLLANDER, Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts University
  • ALISON KADLEC, Center for Advances in Public Engagement (CAPE), Public Agenda
  • PETER LEVINE, CIRCLE, University of Maryland
  • MATT LEIGHNINGER, Deliberative Democracy Consortium
  • GEORGE MEHAFFY, American Democracy Project, AASCU
  • NAN SKELTON, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, University of Minnesota

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