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this model as “direct” democracy (Ia).  In this model, as the closest approximation to the ideal, representatives ought to reflect their constituents’ interests and beliefs, and this is most likely when representatives are similar to their constituents demographically and when representative assemblies are large.4  Referenda are desirable tools in this model, as are term limits and frequent elections.  Executive officers of government are often seen as mere instrumental agents of the legislature with little leadership role.  High levels of participation in politics and in governing institutions are considered highly desirable and serve as a direct accountability mechanism. Representatives and officeholders need to be called to account by the governed, who can have some control over the decisions that affect their lives through political participation.5  

The populist alternative (Ib) is also a form of government consistent with the underlying principles of the participation model, but one in which there is a much greater role for the political leader.  In this model, the people entrust a leader or a party to speak for the interests of the people as a whole against groups in society that are understood to be “special interests.”  Direct participation of the people in governing institutions is not seen as a primary goal.  But the legitimacy of the party and its leader depends upon the extent to which they can credibly speak for the people. Thus, the populist leader and party are held accountable to the public through frequent appeals

4 Similar ideas were expressed by the antifederalists during the contest over ratification of the U.S. Constitution; see Melancton Smith, Brutus,  and the Federal Farmer, in Storing (1981) pp. 39, 114-15, 336-37, 340-41, 344-45. For a contemporary description see Cook and Morgan (1971) pp.1-42.

5 See The Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962 and the Australian Council of Trade Unions background paper, July, 2002.


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