Friday, January 14, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords is Model of Deliberative Democracy

During my first few days of the semester this week I was afforded an unusual opportunity to engage in a discussion on "deliberative democracy," the theme of my textbook, from Joseph Bessette and John Pitney, American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy, and Citizenship. And as announced by the publisher, a key element of the the text is the focus on "thoughtful, selfless consideration of issues and on civic participation as essential components of good citizenship."

And it strikes me that while the "deliberative democracy" model outlined there is often quite idealistic, we do have many role models for the kind of elevated politics to which the model aspires. And while I'm about as partisan as they come, I noticed immediately that Gabrielle Giffords was a different kind of Democrat, a moderate "Blue Dog" with strong credentials on security and border control. So it's interesting that today's Los Angeles Times features a background report on Congresswoman Giffords stressing these key points, "
Arizonans Praise Giffords as Politician Who Tried to Remain Above the Democrat-Republican Divide":

Outside the Tucson office of gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the well-wishers bearing crumpled notes and pink roses are emblematic of the breadth of her support.

They are tattooed college students and flannel-clad construction workers. They are retirees who clutch their canes and weep. Giffords is Jewish, yet many leave candles depicting the Virgin Mary. Giffords is a Democrat, yet many are Republicans.

"I saw her as a voice of reason. In Arizona, they're real hard to find," said Sharon Baker, a 63-year-old Republican whose face fell at the sight of the cluster of red and blue balloons, greeting cards and stuffed animals.

In a state known for rhetoric gone wild, Arizonans are mourning more than Saturday's shooting, which killed six people and left Giffords battling a traumatic brain injury. The gunman's actions have, for the moment, silenced a rare voice of calm amid the political cacophony.

"She appealed to everyone and that's what we need. We need to elect more Gabby Giffordses," said Laura Walls, 47, a personal trainer who visited the roadside tribute this week. She voted for Giffords' "tea party" rival in November.
There's more at the link.

And I don't want to downplay partisan differences too much here. Rep. Giffords supported progressives on both ObamaCare and cap-and-trade (the one-time hot Democrat prioriorty item), but she certainly appeared as genuinely interested the process of governing itself --- and she has served as an especially dedicated representative of her constituents. And I admit to having a soft spot for her, given that she voted against Nancy Pelosi as the House Minority Leader.

I'll have more on Gabrielle Giffords in the days and weeks ahead. God bless her.

(The interview above is from January 7th, the day before she was shot --- i.e., her most recent television appearance.)