Happy 4th of July Missoula. I am writing to inform you of an event the falls on the heels of this most important of holidays.
On July 7 from 9-10 a.m. on the 3rd floor of the U.C. center at the University of Montana. you have a choice to be a part of participatory democracy. A Town Hall meeting led by Sen. Jon Tester and guest panelists, including law professor Anthony Johnstone and former C.I.A analyst Nada Glass Bakos, will be discussing and answering your questions on outside influences in U.S. elections.
Subjects addressed will include Russian interference in the election, dark money and Citizens United.
Sen. Steve Daines was invited to the town hall but is not available to attend.
In this time of intense political division, the opportunity for citizens to meet with their elected officials, hear insight and legal opinion from a panel of experts, and voice one’s opinion in a thoughtful and respectful manner, is hallmark of representative democracy.
Throughout the nation’s history, Americans have had to deal with factionalism.
In the book “Democracy,” author David Moss observes that charges of democratic dysfunction are “as old as the republic itself.” In fact, discord is to be expected: democracy does not function like a machine, with neatly humming checks and balances.
It is “ more like a living breathing organism,” and a fragile one, at that, constantly prone to breakdown and decay.” Americans, Moss, argues, should not fear conflict but rather, embrace it. Handled properly, it permits the best ideas to win out, guards against the tyranny of the majority, and helps prevent special interest groups from gaining too much power.
James Madison argued, in the federalist Papers no. 10, that humans are all to likely to form “ factions “- groups that possess” a zeal for different options concerning religion, government, and many other points.”
That zeal, he wrote, had inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for the common good.
As Madison knew, it is fruitless to try to remove the “causes of friction,” which are sown in the nature of man; people can only aim to control its effects. The best way of doing so, he argued, is through representative democracy.
As Moss reminded readers, for democracy to succeed, it requires not only strong institutions, with checks and balances, but also norms, principles, and the capacity to work across differences to get things done.
Please join us this Friday to practice the principles of representative democracy, and support 241 years of the founding fathers unique vision of this ever evolving democracy.
The Town Hall is free and open to all of Montanans citizens. The event is sponsored by the Montana World Affairs Council, Montanans for National Security, and Davidson Honors College.
Robert Seidenschwarz serves as president emeritus for the Montana World affairs Council and lives in Missoula.