Monday, July 7, 2008

Obama's Acceptance of Nomination in Stadium Resonates with Democracy

Good for Barack Obama for deciding to accept the Democratic Party nomination for President this August in a huge outdoor football stadium in Denver.

Stadiums are usually thought of nowadays as platforms for sports and celebrity concerts. But they have a history that hearkens back to the very roots of democracy.

In ancient Athens, the birthplace of democracy as far as we know, the ideal size for a democratic state was thought to be the number of citizens who could sit in a public arena or stadium and debate the issues.

Ancient Athens put Socrates to death - they had no First Amendment back then - but not every aspect of our democratic system is better than theirs. In place of the direct democracy of Athens, we elect representatives who debate and vote on our behalves. Rather than seeing our speakers in person, we see them on television, where members of the press - another kind of representative - ask them questions for us.

YouTube has taken some of the press out of this process, and put videos in our own hands (or, at least, laptops and cell phones), but we still do not get to see candidates, or each other, in person, as we all pursue the democratic process.

Obama's decision to move his acceptance speech from inside the convention to Invesco Field at Mile High, in Denver, is a powerful and important symbolic move. Like JFK, who also accepted his party's nomination in 1960 in the big outdoor Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Obama's nomination in Denver will be a crucial step in moving our democracy a good mile higher in responsiveness to the people than it is today.

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