Some deliberative theorists have made more specific proposals for reforms than I have offered here. James Fishkin has proposed and recently even begun to implement the idea of a "deliberative opinion poll."8 In such a "poll," a representative sample of citizens get together, inform themselves on a particular issue, and discuss it with one another in front of a national television audience. Such a procedure overcomes some of the basic weaknesses of current practices for measuring and discussing public opinion: rather than being "the cool and deliberate sense of the community" that Madison sought, current polling practices measure opinions that are as unreflective, quickly formed, and easily changed as Hegel thought public opinion to be. Fishkin argues that his deliberative poll can have an advisory and educational function, but it could potentially restore the concern of the public for itself that was once so typical of the reading public. Fishkin's proposal also emphasizes how the process of deliberation might change public opinions rather than reflect the current set of beliefs and spontaneous sentiments. Such polling might even encourage candidates to engage in campaigns of a more deliberative character; campaigning on this model is directed not to current preferences but to a future reflective equilibrium among voters. This sort of procedure might also encourage representatives to act in a more deliberative way, voting for legislation which they believe their constituents would have agreed to had they also gone through the same deliberative process, or had they the same opportunities for informed and reasoned judgment. In any case, one of the merits of Fishkin's proposal is that it creates a new deliberative forum for articulating the public opinion of non-expert citizens, one that is broader and more public than the like-mindedness of most memberships in voluntary associations.
Refinements in institutional design may also promote more deliberation. I have discussed the most general requirement that there be multiple pathways and possibilities for public influence on formal processes and institutional actors. A single mechanism of deliberative .input into institutions may make relations of power more rigid than ever and enable those who are more effective to use it even more opportunistically. On the one hand, the general structure of American dualist democracy and the separation of powers generally promote
Deliberative Democracy and Its Critics
just such an idea of multiple and overlapping decision-making processes. On the other hand, the use of direct referenda (such as in California) has had mixed results in promoting deliberation and has the ambiguities of direct democracy. As has been shown in recent anti-tax, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant referenda in the western United States, such referenda are more often appeals to popular prejudice and political alienation than to community-wide deliberation. Because of the ease of proposing them, referenda are just as episodic and un reflective as current opinion polls.
Mechanisms for increasing public input are not enough to avoid breakdowns in well-functioning deliberative institutions. Any institution in which citizens deliberate relies not only on formal rules but also on informal norms of interaction. For example, Bessette identifies a series of informal norms that helped to promote deliberation in Congress, including the fostering of specialization and expertise in parties, deference to committees and their deliberative work, and constraints on publicity seeking in debates.9 His analysis points to the breakdown of these informal means of promoting ongoing cooperation, rather than deficient formal rules or institutions, as having led to a precipitous decline in the deliberative quality of congressional debate. The constraints provided by informal norms were crucial to establishing the sorts of relations of trust that were necessary for voting down ill-conceived but potentially popular measures and for thinking in future-oriented ways. A deliberative body should at least increase the temporal horizons of deliberation and promote long-term, rational planning. Without it, a lack of constraints on opportunism in deliberation only penalizes those who seek to compromise and cooperate. Besides procedural opportunities, the incentives built into deliberative processes in representative institutions should be structured to promote, rather than disadvantage, those who are willing to give the public reasons of others their proper uptake and respect.
Despite its current limitations and fragmentation, the public sphere remains the source for any reforms and innovations in deliberative arrangements. Such reforms become radical only in periods when the problematic situations with which public deliberation begins concern the very nature of political institutions. In a well functioning public sphere, the issues of the day are discussed from a