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Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin argue that Americans can revitalize their democracy and break the cycle of cynical media manipulation that is crippling public life. They propose a new national holiday—Deliberation Day—for each presidential election year. On this day people throughout the country will meet in public spaces and engage in structured debates about issues that divide the candidates in the upcoming presidential election.
Deliberation Day is a bold new proposal, but it builds on a host of smaller experiments. Over the past decade, Fishkin has initiated Deliberative Polling events in the United States and elsewhere that bring random and representative samples of voters together for discussion of key political issues. In these events, participants greatly increase their understanding of the issues and often change their minds on the best course of action.
Deliberation Day is not merely a novel idea but a feasible reform. Ackerman and Fishkin consider the economic, organizational, and political questions raised by their proposal and explore its relationship to the larger ideals of liberal democracy.