My organization, CIRCLE, promotes a set of 19 "core
indicators of civic engagement" as a way of measuring
the level of engagement of any youthful group or community,
and also as a way of assessing the civic impact of a program, class,
or project. These 19 indicators were chosen after an elaborate national
research project managed by Scott Keeter, Cliff Zukin, Molly Andolina,
and Krista Jenkins, who talked to practitioners and young people in
focus groups and then conducted a national survey. Despite its empirical
rigor, their list of indicators provokes an interesting and important
controversy. I have heard the following views expressed:
In response to yesterday’s post about websites that will calculate
your ideology for you, Nels Lindahl
emailed me about a site called The
Political Compass. This is the most sophisticated and thoughtful
example of the genre, in my opinion. One of its great virtues is its
two-dimensional understanding of ideology, which is much better than
a simple left-right scale. I took the quiz and came out as a moderately
leftist social libertarian, similar to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai
Lama. I’m happy to accept that score.
This summer, I began work on a website that would ask visitors some
questions and then tell them their ideology. I got caught up with the
technical difficulties and never completed the project. However, I believe
it could be useful, since most people I know use ideology as a heuristic.
That is, we don’t have the time to make a very precise and nuanced evaluation
of each candidate for each office. Instead, we start with the assumption
that we are liberals, conservatives, moderates, libertarians, feminists,
environmentalists, or proponents of some other ideology, and then we
use cues in the candidates’ speech and behavior to decide which politicians
come closest to our ideology. CIRCLE surveys show that those young people
who have no ideology do not vote, which suggests that this shortcut
In his Washington Post column
today, E.J. Dionne writes, "Our foreign policy debate right now
pits radicals against conservatives. Republicans are the radicals.
Democrats are the conservatives." Republicans want to
remake the world to match abstract ideals; Democrats are concerned about
traditional alliances and institutions, unintended consequences, and
appropriate limits on national power. In recent blog entries, I’ve been
claiming that Democrats and "progressives" represent the more
conservative voice in many areas of domestic policy. Dionne is making
the same argument about foreign policy (writ large).
Today is the beginning of CIRCLE‘s
annual Advisory Board meeting, when we present our year’s work for review.
Meanwhile, I recommend this long but excellent radio
program about neighborhood councils in Baghdad.
(Thanks to Archon Fung for spreading
the word about it.) At least once a week, I read an article about Americans
and/or Iraqis who are improvising public services or creating democratic
forums in Iraq. Even though the Army is a hierarchical and bureaucratic
organization with a partly violent purpose, many of our soldiers seem
to have a great capacity for improvisation and diplomacy and a deep
understanding of liberal democratic ideals. There are plenty of stories
about poor planning at the highest levels of our government (and in
the Iraqi Governing Council), and about the inadequate training of the
occupation forces; but these stories don’t detract from the work that’s
being done by at least some of our rank-and-file servicemen and women.