Setting the Madisonian Stage for Citizen Engagement
Between September 2021- July 2022, I posted a series of blog posts and related material setting the stage for a six months long experiment in Citizenism that will focus on the challenges associated with the opioid epidemic.
The Citizenism Project is inspired by and leverages the political thinking that shaped the “DNA” of our body politic, the US Constitution, and the person who played a central role in the conception and birthing of the United States, James Madison. Grounded in the farsighted vision of the founders, the project is informed by the experience of the past 232 years, by a modern understanding of human nature, and enabled by the assets of modern life including digital technology and social media. The interconnected parts of the project: The Citizenism Initiative, The Case Presentations, Our Political Ecosystem, Health of the Nation, The Citizen’s Toolbox for the 21st Century, the blog Shrink the Government and additional components are used as educational tools for understanding our democracy, as catalysts to reframe the current political conversation and tools for meaningful participation in the political ecosystem. The platform and tools serve to “Heal” our current dysfunctional body politic.
As Americans, we the people, continue to be troubled by an array of problems facing our nation and the failure of the political system to address them. Trust in our governing institutions has reached historic lows as Congress’ approval ratings sink into the single digits. Gridlock and hyper-partisanship have paralyzed our governing bodies, resulting in the least productive Congress in recent history and a political climate that makes problem-solving all but impossible. The public’s voice is increasingly drowned out as political leaders become ever more dependent on a relatively small group of large donors and special interests.
Citizenism is reclaiming the citizen from subjects, consumers, taxpayers, voters, elector and related roles that have defined Americans. Thomas Jefferson in authoring the Declaration of Independence reframed the end-user of the political entity of the US from subjects to citizens. The early debates centered on the role of the citizen in the emerging government. Over the past centuries, we have learned more about the role and have available more tools for participation.
At this political moment, when distrust of the federal government and many other institutions is at an all-time high, and more Americans are questioning the value of democracy, it may serve us well to ask what would the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, think of contemporary developments in American politics. Would he reassess the framing of the challenges he understood to confront the government of the world he lived in? What would he make of our current congress, presidency, courts, media, and most importantly citizens? What would he do confronted by the “dysfunction” of the political organism he conceived and helped bring to life and nursed through the first decades of the infant republic? How would he refine the diagnosis of the body politic and how would he leverage the developments of the past 231 years to achieve the vision he set forth in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights that he shepherded through the first congress? How would he understand and leverage scientific developments impacting daily life?
Political discourse in this country is broken. To a startling degree, dividing ideologies and sound bites have replaced rational debate. Special interests have replaced constituencies. Scandals and bickering talking heads have replaced reasonable media coverage and context. It’s clear the American public has lost its faith in its elected officials. We’ve all become cynics – about the political process, about the politicians we elect and about the outcomes we can reasonably expect to see. Our politicians have lost their faith in the citizenry, as well. There’s a reason our representatives focus on the issues that divide us and our media echoes those partisan divisions at an ever-increasing volume. We cannot expect our current leadership in Washington to change its demeaning outlook toward fellow citizens. Are Americans are no longer fit for self-governance? Will Our national success – maybe even survival – depend on authoritarians of one kind or other dictating public choices to the rest of us?
The Medical Case Presentation structure offers a framework for a citizen-oriented treatment plan that provides a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder and multi-phase road map for citizen involvement in their political ecosystem. The medical case presentation process encourages citizens to engage in a healthy action-oriented collaborative process that addresses the complexity of the social and political challenges confronting our nation. Using the medical case presentation promotes objective and nonpartisan dialogue built on openness, transparency, and participation to explore the various elements that contribute to a problem in order to generate a meaningful treatment plan. Associated psychological issues including cognitive biases, needed incentives, and triggers for negative emotions are identified and explored in order to minimize their negative impact and maximize their positive potential. Through progress notes addressing key assessment goals, we are able to adapt to shifting factors to continually address new situations and create potential solutions.
Citizenism is the recognition and exploration of the role of the citizen within the political ecosystem. Citizenism aims to enhance our democracy, to reclaim the citizen as a central stakeholder in the political ecosystem and strive for deliberative dialogue as understood by the founding fathers, where the people are the ultimate sovereigns. It builds on the founder’s view of the active citizen continuously participating in their government, locally and nationally. It studies the nature of the citizen rights, responsibilities and the influences that make the modern citizen. Citizenism borrows from other fields and disciplines, including human behavior, medical science, social science, political science, philosophy (Pragmatism) and is Informed by network science, complexity, and translational democracy. Citizenism is positioned to respond to a troubling array of problems facing our nation’s political system.
The Cancer of American Politics Series builds on the understanding of the biologic cancer process and current treatment approaches as a framework to address the political cancer that has developed in our body politic. We use The Medical Case Presentation as a framework to address the problem list that is the modern cancer in the body politic. It is our goal to a more deliberative, respectable solutions-oriented process inspired by hope and built on a compromise that serves the public. Our treatment plan focuses on citizens as crucial contributors to the healing process. The series starts with an examination of the similarities of the biology of cancer and the current US political system.
When it comes to our political life, digital technology has the potential to enrich American Democracy and provide the tools for 21st-century solutions to the challenges confronting the United States. From participation in the political process to engage citizens in decision making and policy formulation, digital technology can be leveraged on the local, national and global levels. We discuss utilizing digital technology to strengthen our democracy by improving citizen engagement. Current technology allows us to rewire the body politic through information technology. These tools allow unprecedented opportunity to get access to information, mobilize, challenge misinformation provide for a more deliberative dialogue. Where previously only well-connected individuals and organizations were engaged now more of the public can get engaged.
In many ways, the opioid epidemic has come to highlight the pathology of our current political moment and represents the many underlying challenges faced by the body politic of the United States. I have come to realize that without a comprehensive understanding of the interconnected and complex bio-psycho-socio-political challenges of opioid use/ abuse and the related complex factors that fermented and now maintain this epidemic, the pathology within our body politic, the current efforts stemming from the SUPPORT Act and the implementation of recommendations made by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, including funding allocations by the federal and state governments, the billions of dollars that states and local governments stand to “win” to help “fight” the epidemic, the promises made by presidential candidates, will have similar outcomes to all the trillions in taxpayer dollars that have been “spent” over the past 2 decades with continued OD death and destruction in communities.
The Pain and Opioid Epidemic Medical Case Presentation builds on an understanding of the complexity of the political ecosystem that has evolved from the constitutional DNA. It will particularly focus on exploring various political, social and other institutions and processes from the citizen perspective. More specifically, keeping with the medical case presentation framework, the article suggests a citizen-based toolbox to engage with the relevant stakeholders that are relevant to the emergence and evolving devastation of the opioid epidemic. Suggestions are made to utilize the process and these tools to address other complex problems facing our country.
The Pain Opioid Epidemic Project is an experiment in citizen engagement (Citizenism) inspired by the belief that we as citizens must engage with our fellow citizens and relevant stakeholders to achieve solutions to the challenges that face our communities and our nation. The Pain Opioid Epidemic Project's primary goal is to address the political system and the role of the citizen within it, the challenges of the system will be taken as a given and the presentation will focus on the actual aspects and problems associated with the pain opioid epidemic. In addition to the symptoms associated with opioid use and pain management, the Opioid Project focuses on the underlying “symptoms of the diseases of the US political system”. These symptoms are epiphenomena for a more virulent if not “mortal disease” of the US body politic. The environment that maintains the veracity of the symptom is the political/ economic reality (Democracy-Capitalism) can lead to despair/ alienation, marginalization, hopelessness, helplessness. It sets a spotlight on the cause and offers a “treatment” citizen-oriented approach to underlying challenges in the US body politic.