Democracy, and the
One of the guiding principles of democratic socialism is participatory democracy. By this is meant the active involvement of the citizenry in all decision-making processes, whether they be elections, city meetings, or access to city hall.
When we look at the Sanders administration's record in this area, there are certain places where an increase in citizen participation is quite evident. A sterling example is in the electoral arena. Here, as well as in the city's tenants' movement and the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies, low- and moderate-income people have been much more involved in the workings of local government.
But there are some troubling contradictions. For example, while the administration pushed for the creation of the assemblies, it also let some of them flounder and tried to impose its agenda on others. And while Mayor Sanders himself professed a democratic-socialist philosophy, his administration's internal decision-making processes tended to be limited and exclusionary, though perhaps not purposely, to certain progressives and women.
In this chapter, we will explore both the accomplishments and the shortcomings of the Sanders experiment in participatory democracy in Burlington and try to ascertain whether it makes a difference having a socialist in local office and if so, in what ways.
Socialists holding municipal office clearly can effect change in the area of citizens' relation to local government. One measure of change