The View From 1776
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The Paradox of Participatory Democracy
Do we really want all voices heard in the search for truth?
Demanding that all voices representing moral viewpoints be heard in the political and social process was one of the planks in the platform of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), one of the earliest liberal-progressive, student radical movements of the 1960s. Paradoxically, opening the debate to all views has led liberal-progressives to deny participatory democracy, to fight open discussion in the legislative and educational arenas.
In the 1960s, student radicals opposed the Vietnam War, declaring it to be, among other things, an immoral, imperial campaign against the third-world’s right of self-determination. Their presumption was that the established military-industrial complex controlled the nation and foreclosed honest debate about morality in foreign policy. They demanded participatory democracy, the right of their voices to influence political and economic action.
A decade later, the 1973 Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision “discovered” abortion as a Constitutional right and launched the largest of current participatory-democracy movements, the Right to Life movement. Reaction from 1960s activists, who constitute today’s academic, legislative, and judicial establishment, is to quash debate, to abort participatory democracy.
As a Dartmouth College professor once told me, yes, the college believed in freedom of speech, but some views didn’t deserve to be heard.
For an exploration of participatory-democracy liberal-progressives against participatory democracy, read Richard John Neuhaus’s The Pro-Life Movement as the Politics of the 1960s.
[Fr. Neuhaus succumbed to cancer yesterday, January 8, 2009]