A Tribunal Convention Outlined

Just as in the Constitution many of the rules and procedures although important, involve many precise details that are somewhat arbitrary.  For example we have two Senators for every state with terms of six years.   Some of these details have become enshrined in tradition.  However there were logical reasons behind their selection.  For example, six years was chosen in part to make their terms long enough to ensure some stability over time with only one third of their terms ending every two years.  Two Senator’s per state was in part a political compromise with more proportional democracy in order to have the previously independent smaller states to agree to be part of the new nation. The fact that compromises are made in order to enable its adoption does not mean that it can not be a very significant improvement.

Likewise with Tribunocracy many rules will need to be chosen.  For example how many Tribunes should their be in a major important election.  In court trials our tradition is to have twelve jurors. 

For major elected officials like Governors or US Senators as many as three hundred Tribunes and two hundred alternates might be selected.  The logic behind this suggestion is that a large enough sample to include  many of the various members of the society may be valuable in terms of insuring representation and in providing different viewpoints from which questions and comments may be provided.  If the number was very small, there would be more risk of tampering with the Tribunes.  For example if their were only 12 someone willing to risk bribing a single Tribune might hope to affect the outcome.  However if there are 300 one would have to bribe many in order to have big effect on the outcome.  Since jury tampering would be a crime for both the briber and the Tribune the chances of bribing enough Tribunes to change the outcome without getting caught would be small.  More so because serving Tribunes would be sequestered.  Even with only 300 Tribunes the chance that a single Tribune would change the outcome is very small; arguable not high enough to justify one’s investing the time and energy required to serve as a tribune.  However, Tribunes would have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments through participate in their deliberative sub group that would be presented before the entire Tribunal Convention (read anonymously by a third party to protect the authors from possible negative public reaction).  This would mean that a rational Tribune who recognized that casting a single vote in a group as large as 300 would not likely  change the outcome might chose to participate in part because they might hope to ask a question or make a comment that by affecting the other Tribunes would have an effect on the outcome. 

300 Tribunes is a small enough group to easily gather in a moderately sized auditorium.  It is a small enough number so that there sequestration in can be carefully monitored.  For example they could all be housed in a single large hotel.

For major elected officials like Governors or US Senators as many as three hundred Tribunes and two hundred alternates might be selected. If a change in circumstance prevents a selected Tribune from attending the next in line Alternate will take their place. Tribunes will travel to a public meeting facility. Just as with Jurors, laws will require employers to allow Tribunes to attend the Tribunal Conventions without penalty. Tribunes will receive reimbursement for their time, travel expenses, and be provided food, and logging. Like jurors they will be monitored and sequestered during their service as Tribunes. Also like jurors, they will not be allowed contact with outsiders, political material such as news or commentary, and will be required to attend the public presentations and private deliberation sessions.

Tribunal Conventions will have a publicly posted agenda. Candidates will be scheduled to appear on multiple occasions and in addition to answering questions will have time to address topics of their choice and have others present information or arguments on their behalf. The candidates and presenting parties will be required to answer questions asked by the public, the media, other candidates, and Tribunes. All candidates and people testifying before the Tribunes will take an oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” under penalty of perjury. All testimony will be recorded as part of the public record. Rebuttal time will be provided to present arguments and additional data.

Tribunes will periodically adjourn to small randomly assigned groups to privately discuss the issues and prepare statements and questions. For example, a three hundred member Tribune might be divided into fifteen deliberative groups of twenty Tribunes. Each group might be asked to produce two short comments and two questions relating to subjects dealt with or on the agenda. A special editing committee will consolidate similar or duplicate questions. All the original submitted questions and the consolidations would be published on an internet site that both he public and the Tribunes could view. If the propriety of any of the consolidations was contested the public or the Tribunes could list their objections and re-submit the questions or comments. The questions and comments will be read by a speaker to the whole Tribunal Convention and the parties questioned. The identity of the individual Tribunes who submitted the questions or comments will be kept secret in order to prevent their seeking public favor or being fearful of disfavor.

Tribunal Conventions will provide new forms of individual citizen participation. The public will be invited to submit questions and comments on a public internet site, and rate the ones already submitted. Those receiving the highest ratings, will be read or asked by the speaker as part of the proceedings.

Special interest groups will have a new methods of participation. For example, groups presenting signed petitions will be granted time to publicly address the Tribunal Convention based on the number of signatures they obtained. The speaking time allocated to an interest group would be prorated based on their share of the total number of signatures raised by all submitting groups. For example: If groups in aggregate raised 500,000 signatures, and the agenda provided five hours to hear presentations from petitioners, a group raising 10,000 signatures would be allocated six minutes to make their case before the Tribunes, the media, and the viewing audience.

At the conclusion of the Tribunal Convention, all the Tribunes convene in small groups for a final discussion, then have private time to cast their vote and if they choose prepare a short written statement explaining what they believed was most important, how they voted, and why. If a Tribune chooses to keep their vote or reasoning private they will be have that right. Like the written decisions of appellate Judges voluntarily written statements of the Tribunes will be preserved as a public record. This gives a Tribune the opportunity to say more than yea or nay; and allows their views and analysis to also have an influence.

Even if there is only a small number of Tribunes, the value of an individual Tribune's vote could be calculated to be very small compared to the time and effort required to participate in a Tribunal Convention. This is because the chance of a single vote changing the outcome if there are as many as dozens or even hundreds of votes cast. However, individual Tribunes can influence other Tribunes in their deliberation groups, and by asking questions or making comments that will be presented before all the Tribunes. Therefore, each Tribune will have a greater chance to affect the outcome. Attending a Tribunal Convention as a Tribune, may become a highly valued personal opportunity like attending a major cultural or sports event.

Tribunes may also be motivated by the opportunity to express their conclusions in a written statement that will be a permanent record. Pundits and political analysts can study the Tribune’s statements for insights into voter's thinking, instead of having to speculate based on voting results, population demographics or exit polling. Government officials, and perspective candidates will likely consider issues and viewpoints identified by Tribune’s as important in their written statements. In this way Tribunes will be like Supreme Court justices whose written decisions have an impact apart from just their vote

Although some will initially fear adoption of Tribunocracy will reduce their personal power to affect election outcome, by taking away their right to vote in every public election, there are counterbalancing benefits that with time and experience will increasingly become highly valued. For example, if you view serving as a Tribune as highly desirable, having a registration number and the chance to be selected as a Tribune is like having a lottery ticket and a chance to win the lottery. Voters now frustrated by the fact that their individual vote never changes the outcome in any large election, can hope that if selected as a Tribune they will have a chance to make a significant difference. Although the chance of being selected as a Tribune in the major Tribunal Conventions, such as for electing a Governor or Senator is very small, the chance to be selected as a Tribune for lesser elections or local referendum will be larger. Watching Tribunal Conventions in real time will become a valued form or reality entertainment. This is why prominent public trials like OJ Simpson's murder trial and Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial received tremendous viewership. The impeachment trial of former Arizona Governor Mecham set state records for media viewership. Public proceedings allowed viewers to watch the substance of something important directly unfolding before them in real time. Tribunal conventions will involve even more important issues, and be even more open and informative. Unlike jury trials viewers will be able participate in in some of the proceedings. Viewers having the opportunity to submit questions, comments, and rate them will makes watching a Tribunal Convention a potentially participatory event. Similarly anyone involved in a special interest group will have a way to participate by signing or gathering petitions.

Once the superiority of Tribunocracy is witnessed and understood, it may seam imprudent to conduct an election without it, just as it now seams imprudent to substitute a mass public vote for a jury trial. Because the candidates will have lengthy opportunities to speak in front of all the voting Tribunes, money spent on advertising prior to the Tribunal Convention will be much less influential. All candidates will have an adequate opportunity to answer allegations and arguments.

Because all the voting Tribunes are exposed to a full public "trial" of the issues at the Tribunal Convention, they will all be much better informed than many voters are today. You can’t fix stupid, but you can repair ignorant. Each Tribune knowing they have a significant chance of affecting the outcome, will motivate them to invest the study and concern required to make their best decision. As said in the movie Spider Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is why virtually every juror after participating in a trial, when asked has report they felt a great sense of responsibility.

The media will report and may comment on the Tribune's public activity just as they now cover public trials or legislative proceedings. The media will also participate in the questioning of the candidates and witnesses. However, the ability of Tribunes to hear directly the candidates and witnesses will reduce the chances of inaccurate or biased media distorting their perception of the facts or candidates.

Money spent on advertising prior to the Tribunal Convention will be much less influential, because all the candidates will have free lengthy opportunities to speak in front of all the voting Tribunes. This does not require spending massive amounts of money on short expensive advertisements. After days of hearing directly from the candidates and testifying parties, the paid advertising and sloganeering the Tribunes heard previously, will be less significant. The candidates will have time to answer arguments or allegations including those that may have been raised in prior paid advertising. This allows the opportunity to answer allegations with facts, explanations and counterbalancing arguments without using up the limited number of minutes of paid advertisement a candidate can afford or using up the few sound bites unpaid media may grant them.

Because the Tribunes witness a full public "trial" of the issues at the Tribunal Convention, they will be much better informed than most voters are today. You cant fix stupid, but you can fix ignorant. The media will be encouraged to both report the Tribune's public activity, and participate in the questioning of the candidates and presenters who testify. Because the Tribunes will hear directly the statements of the candidates, presenters, and expert witnesses they will be less affected by inter-mediating parties.

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