This experiment actually happened. From Sept. 19 to 22, the nonpartisan institution Helena convened America in One Room. It brought together a national sample of more than 500 registered voters from all over the United States, recruited by an independent, nonpartisan research institution, NORC at the University of Chicago.

This is a well-tested process we call “deliberative polling.” It combines a meticulously conducted conventional poll with face-to-face discussion in depth, followed by a second poll. It will tell us: What would the people really think under the best practical conditions for pondering the issues? Which candidates have support on what issues after the people have had the chance to think about them and discuss them in a civil fashion? Who supports who on what policies and why?

This experiment in democratic reform has been tried 108 times since 1994 in 28 countries. Every place it has been applied, whether in Texas on wind power, Bulgaria on the education of the Roma, Japan on pension reform, South Korea on nuclear power or Uganda on education and health care in rural areas, it has had constructive effects in clarifying the public’s considered judgments.

I had the opportunity to attend this Historic event as a delegate from Vermont. There was one other person from VT, but I unfortunately didn’t get to meet them. I did meet Andrew from Hawaii who is originally from the Barre area and familiar with from Joe’s Pond. (It really is a small world).

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