Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College

American Civic Debate Union logoWe need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own.

For decades I have toyed with the idea that we could use a civic forum for popular debate, an organization that would make it possible for communities to discuss the issues of the day in ways that would spark thought and reflection, perhaps enabling better decision-making come Election Day. This idea has grown stronger over the past 20 years, as the combined corrosive mechanisms of partisan tribalism, cable media and, worst of all, the Internet and social media seemed to find new and better ways of tearing society apart, making us dumber and more hateful in the process.

I broached the idea recently with friends and colleagues and their response convinced me that now was the time to give it a try. So I have founded what I’m ambitiously calling the American Civic Debate Union. Our first event will be held next Sunday here in Denver, and it will feature me squaring off with my good friend Dr. Frank Venturo over the question of whether the US ought to do something, once and for all, about the Electoral College. If so, what?

I encourage you to:

  1. Consider starting a chapter where you live – is a public debate group (where people could discuss important issues while drinking good beer, wine, liquor and cocktails) something you think is a good idea?
  2. Share this post and the link to our Facebook page with your friends. The ACDU site contains a number of informational resources that you might find useful, including details on formats, procedures and rules, although there really aren’t a lot of actual rules. Also, the site expounds on the merits of having these debates in close proximity to good food and adult refreshments.
  3. If you’re in or near Denver, plan on joining us next Sunday. (If you can, drop an RSVP in the comment thread so I can get an accurate count on how big a room we need.)

American Civic Debate Union logoI feel like the ACDU is a good idea for our communities, because I don’t think the US has been at odds with itself this badly since the Civil War. We need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own. An informal national network of ACDU chapters could perhaps help move the needle in that direction a little, and if we can all work together to get it started we’ll know we did our part to make the world a little better place.

Let me know if you have questions, comments or ideas.


  • This is a great idea. I can’t commit, but I would very much like to be there.

  • A survey of Colorado voters in 2008 showed 68% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    In past years, the Colorado House and Senate have passed the bill.

    There have been hundreds of unsuccessful proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College – more than any other subject of Constitutional reform.
    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    Instead, pragmatically, The National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency in 2020 to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.


  • If you approve of National Popular Vote for Colorado, be aware that the bill has been introduced in the state senate as SB17-099, and committee hearing is scheduled for February 15th at 1:30pm, room SCR357. The committee has three Republican and two Democrat members, so it is an uphill challenge to convince one of those three Republicans to approve (remember that 2011 GOP platform simultaneously disapproved of NPV while endorsing Crosscheck interstate compact).

    Call these three Republican state senators to say why you want NPV:
    Ray Scott 303-866-3077
    Vicki Marble 303-866-4876
    Jerry Sonnenberg 303-866-6360

    National Popular Vote removes anomalies from states’ winner-take-all electoral votes. In doing so it gives dis-enfranchised voters relevancy. Those are voters who live anywhere except swing states: if their vote is unlikely to change the winner-take-all outcome, they might as well stay home. That applies to a conservative living in either a solidly blue or solidly red state, and vice versa for a liberal. It’s no wonder that US voter turnout is one of the lowest in the developed world.

    The last part of this is that political parties will adapt to a change to National Popular Vote. Instead of working to campaign to the electoral college, successful campaigns will address the concerns and campaign to citizen voters. What a concept, a republic that represents its citizens!

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