Democracy Paradox
Democracy Paradox
Aug 16, 2020
John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch on Citizen Initiative Review
Play • 1 hr 15 min

The ninth episode revisits the initiative referendum except it introduces an important twist. John Gastil and Katherine Knobloch are the authors of Hope for Democracy: How Citizens Can Bring Reason Back into Politics. They consider how the idea of deliberative democracy was able to influence initiative referendums through a new institution called the Citizens' Initiative Review (CIR). This was a reform brought to life in Oregon a few years ago.

John and Katie help us understand this specific reform but also discuss the broader idea of deliberative democracy. It is easy to get lost in the details of any specific reform initiative for democracy. But this discussion brings to life how ordinary people have been able to bring ideas to life and make a small difference in how democracy is shaped.

This is a good sequel for the episode with Joshua Dyck and Edward Lascher. They were pessimistic about initiative referendums. This episode offers a path to soften some of those concerns. But as we discuss near the end, the idea of deliberative democracy has been introduced into many avenues of government, education, and even private enterprise.

John Gastil (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences and Political Science at the Pennsylvania State University, where he is a senior scholar at the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Gastil’s research focuses on the theory and practice of deliberative democracy, especially how small groups of people make decisions on public issues. The National Science Foundation has supported his research on the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review, the Australian Citizens’ Parliament, jury deliberation, and cultural cognition. His other recent books include Legislature by Lot and his debut novel, Gray Matters. He was born in San Diego, California, where his father ran for US Congress in 1976 and his mother followed suit in 1992-94. Raised as a Quaker, it’s fitting that he now lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

Katherine R. Knobloch is an assistant professor and the associate director of the Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University. At the CPD Knobloch trains undergraduates in civic engagement and facilitation and works with community partners to design and implement public forums. She studies the development, evaluation, and impact of deliberative public processes, with a focus on how the emergence of deliberative institutions alters communities and individuals. Her research has appeared in numerous academic publications, including Politics, American Politics Research, and the Journal of Applied Communication Research. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Washington and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University. She was born and raised in the bayou region of Southern Louisiana and developed her interest in political structures while watching her father and grandfather navigate small-town electoral politics. She currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband and two young children.

Thanks to Apes of the State for permission to use their tracks "The Internet Song" and "Plate Glass Apology. You can find their music on Spotify or their Bandcamp. Thanks to Oxford University Press who has made many volumes available to me during the pandemic.

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