I would like to introduce a new, very uncommon citizen debate between two people who place themselves at different places on the political spectrum.
There's a twist in how the debate will be conducted. See below for details.
In almost every debates that can be seen on TV or on the web today, two or more sides argue and present their ideas to the best of their ability. At the end, the listener can make his or her opinion as to "who won the debate". Debates are set to be confrontational in nature. One side "wins" and one side "loses". Participants are thus encouraged to take shots at each other, subtly or not so subtly, if not downright openly, criticizing each other's record, positions, etc. Even during primary election debates, where by and large participants share a common set of ideals and positions, they are encouraged by the debate format to differentiate themselves by pointing out their differences.
All in all, everything is set to encourage a kind of "I am right and you are wrong" attitude. This kind of debates does not help to foster a spirit of political dialogue, exchange of ideas and an attitude of compromise. On the contrary. And if you want to see an example of the absurd consequences of such a system, simply look at the state of affairs in Washington during the Debt Ceiling debate in the summer of 2011!
This debate will be different. The participants will both win... or they will both lose.
The chosen participants agree on some things, but also have noted differences on others. The aim of the debate will be very different from that of traditional debates: readers will not be asked to chose the winner of the "fight". The goal will be to foster dialogue and a healthy political discourse by asking the participants to make an inventory of how much they can agree on and to what extent they'd be able to work with each other within a fictional government for the good of the society.
The debate will take place online within this very web site. To reach that goal, the participants will be asked to draft a common declaration, a political statement, that would represent all the main areas where they'd be able to cooperate, all the ideas they have in common as well as all the areas where they managed to reach a compromise. The participants will draft this declaration together, and at the end of the debate, they'll be asked to "sign" it and publicly stand by its content.
The readers will then be able to evaluate the statement and see to what extent the participants both "win" or both "lose".
In this format, there is an inherent difficulty that must be noted. Given the fact that the goal is to draft a list of political statements on which both participants agree, one might think that such a debate would be boring or even, worse, pointless! In practice, writing such a statement will necessitate the participants to explore the boundaries between where they can agree, and where they can't or won't! Drafting a list of agreements entails touching on borderline areas, thereby highlighting topics of disagreement.
While the readers will be able to judge the final document signed by the participants, the whole process that lead to its creation will also be highly interesting. The process will take place in public, within this very web site: the participants will be able to use their own blogs here to bring up topics that are close to their respective hearts.
With that, I think it is highly time to introduce the two participants.
First, we have Jan Kok, a Range Voting advocate, well known within the Election Method experts community. He is a self-confessed libertarian, situating himself right within the "libertarian corner" of the World's Smallest Political Quiz. He is a strong Ron Paul advocate. I'll let him use his blog to introduce himself more fully.
And I have the great honour to be the second participant of this uncommon debate. Just like Jan will use his blog, I will be using my own blog to present the ideas that I care the most about. As far as my political leanings, I can safely be put left of centre. I have a lot of respect for left wing liberals such as Representative Dennis Kuccinich and TV show host Rachel Maddow. However, in many ways, on a theoretical level, I also agree with many right wing ideals. All in all, my own favourite policies would be quite different from those traditionally put forward by either the right or the left. This debate will be an opportunity for me to present my own ideals, for which there is no really fitting label as yet.
On a practical level, Jan and myself will be using our respective blogs here to exchange ideas. Soon, I will set up a special area that both he and I will be able to edit: this will be the place where we'll be drafting our common declaration. Much later, I'll also set up a sort of table of content that will link to all of our blog posts that were part of this debate. Readers are welcome to post comments and ask questions within the participants' blogs and even create their own blog entries here.
There is no set deadline nor time frame for the debate. The participants can take things at their own pace, within the next weeks and months. It's over when they both decide it is, and when they are ready to make a stand for their common, final declaration. Should they fail to draft any common statement, or if that statement is not "signed" by both participants, then it will be deemed that they both "lost" the debate.
With that, let's the debate begin!