88 - Democracy After Liberalism

Thompson are explicit on this point; they write, "Even in deliberative democracy, deliberation does not have priority over liberty and opportunity." Regarding their view, basic liberty and fair opportunity are "con­ straints on what counts as a morally legitimate resolution of disagreement" (1996, 17). They are "partly independent" values (1996, 366, n. 18).

What is troubling about this conception of deliberation is that the con­ straints placed upon deliberation are themselves not generated by the kind of public deliberative processes the liberals advocate. Theorists, such as Rawls and Cohen, restrict the use of nonpublic reasons in political debate as a matter of course. Despite the fact they identify the need for "free delib­ eration among equals" as a requirement of the legitimacy of political decisions (Cohen 1989, 72), they seek to impose this restriction ex ante, without public deliberation. It is in this sense that the constraints represent inde­ pendent values.

This feature of the liberal theories of deliberation invites an objection, raised by theorists as diverse as lames Iohnson (1998), Robert George (1999), Stanley Fish (1999), Chantal Mouffe (2000), and Ian Shapiro (2003, 22-26), that liberal deliberative democracy is rigged to favor liberal out­ comes. To see this, let us briefly consider the controversy in America re­ garding abortion. Religious believers tend to oppose abortion on the basis of a comprehensive doctrine according to which human life begins at con­ ception. On a liberal conception of public reason, religious believers could not appeal to this doctrine of the beginning of human life in a public de­ bate; reasons that are couched in a comprehensive doctrine are ipso facto nonpublic and inadmissible in public deliberation. To invoke Ackerman's phrase, such reasons are reserved for and restricted to "other, more private contexts" (1989, 17). If one is to make a public case against abortion, one must avoid appealing to controversial theories of when human life begins, and instead, demonstrate that the political values embedded within our shared political tradition-values which "all citizens as reasonable and ra­ tional might reasonably be expected to endorse" (Rawls 1996, 236)-weigh in against abortion. However, to require of citizens that public discussion of important matters be conducted in this attenuated, "political not meta­ physical;' mode is to beg the very questions that religious opponents of abortion are often trying to engage. The question regarding abortion rights is as much about how political and nonpolitical values should be priori­ tized, as it is about the protection of the life of unborn persons. Therefore, to introduce into the very conception of public reason a restriction that fa vors political values such as equality, equal rights to reproductive control, and so forth to other values is to program public deliberation to favor et'!" tain outcomes. The liberal constraints on public reason thus seem blatant Iy unfair to those who believe that certain values - the respect for human life

The Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory - 89

for instance - should outweigh the liberal political values.21

The respect in which liberal deliberation is fixed so as to produce the kinds of outcomes liberals tend to favor is especially evident in Cohen's (1998, 195-197) brief discussion of the recent Papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. Cohen contrasts the position of those who oppose abortion on the basis of faith or "revealed truths" with the position stated by Pope John Paul Il. Quoting the encyclical, Cohen demonstrates that the Pope maintains that the truth of the Catholic view on abortion can be "known in its essen­ tial traits by human reason" and that the "Law of God" which forbids abor­ tion is "knowable by reason itself" (1998, 196). The case against abortion promoted by the Pope differs, then, from those based in claims of faith and revealed truths. Whereas as the latter reasons "can be reasonably rejected by others" and therefore "cannot serve to justify legislation" (Cohen 1998, 195), the Pope's case seems to appeal not to a comprehensive doctrine, but to reason itself. Therefore, the Pope's case cannot be dismissed as nonpub­ lie and inappropriate for public deliberation. Rather than engaging the arguments raised by the encyclical, however, Cohen offers the revealing response, "We must show that the conception of reason [the encyclical] ap­ peals to is itself sectarian and that the argument [against abortion] fails on a conception of reason that is not" (1998, 196). Cohen gives no indication of what a "sectarian" conception of reason is, or how it differs from his own, presumably nonsectarian, conception of reason. Nor does he demonstrate that the Pope's argument against abortion indeed fails on a nonsectarian conception of reason. Moreover, he gives no indication of how one would go about demonstrating that a conception of reason is "sectarian?" The sense of Cohen's response is nonetheless clear: Reason, properly under­ stood, will not contradict current liberal intuitions about abortion. Antiabortion arguments that make appeals to "reason" covertly involve sec­ tarian principles.

In discussing a similar example, Gutmann and Thompson confidently declare that appeals to religious reasons as the basis for illiberal policies "can be shown to be rationalizations" (1990, 70). Yet, as Fish has argued, such declarations that religious reasons are beyond the pale, is not an argu­ ment, but rather a "succession of dismissive gestures" (1999, 91). And Shapiro notes that any fundamentalist "will rightly expect to come out on the short end of any deliberative exchange" conducted in Gutmann and Thompson's terms. Shapiro concludes, "The Gutrnann-Thompson model works only for those fundamentalists who also count themselves fallibilist democrats"; he continues, "That, I fear, is an empty class, destined to remain uninhabited" (Shapiro 2003, 26).

In light of these considerations, one can plausibly argue that, despite their osttensible turn from aggregation toward deliberation, liberal theorists