A MADISONIAN FRAMEWORK FOR CIVIC INVOLVEMENT
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Popular government in the United States requires an American citizenry capable to confront the difficult questions of a self-governing people. As political science deepens our understanding of the political behavior of the American people, it also narrows our understanding of the citizen’s role to election cycles and policy outcomes. The Madisonian Framework for Civic Involvement represents an understanding of the citizen’s role as complex and varied as the proposition of popular government itself. The Framework traces three themes (interaction, input and integration) that recur in James Madison’s writing as a political theorist and his work as a political actor. Rather than a prescription of specific behaviors required from each individual, Madison's work provides a framework for understanding the patterns, perspectives and principles giving shape to an American citizenry capable of countering the worst tendencies of popular government and their own nature. The work presented here revisits an understanding of the citizen's role as Madison imagined it, embedded in his commitments about the proper role of government, the institutional scheme of an extensive republic and the lessons of America's past. The Framework demonstrates how the study of American Political Behavior has worked to shrink our ideas about the citizen’s role while promoting studies constrained by specific commitments about the relationship between citizens and government. The Madisonian Framework for Civic Involvement makes it possible to suspend debate over Madison’s liberal, democratic or civic republican commitments in order to extend our own understanding of civic involvement as it aligns with the more complex understanding of the nature of humankind and government that guided the original design of the American system of government. Finally, the author demonstrates how the Framework has potential to help us understand the political debates (Lincoln-Douglas Debates), social programs (President Johnson’s Community Action Programs) and policy initiatives (President Obama’s online petition) of the past and future where the understanding of the citizen's role makes all the difference.