Stuart Elway is the unfortunately named pollster who helped the governor put together her civic engagement section of her GMAP program. In addition to a series of open town hall meetings, they also held some citizen jury type meetings where they asked random, yet screened voters to decide how you could tell if government was doing the right thing. (He talked about this during another podcast I downloaded from TVW... thank God for podcasts).
What they did was give people the space for conversation and the indication that what they said would matter. And, it worked, people listened to each other and moved beyond their immediate wants:
They hear issues framed in ways they didn't hear before... They had to work at the table to winnow down the 10 or 12 ideas to just four, and that process alone opened up peoples eyes to these other perspectives. It was very rewarding to watchDownload the entire episode (August 14, 2006) to listen to his entire answer, but he gets blogs because he understands the importance of bringing people together, civil conversation and how normal regular people (not politicians or bureaucrats) can give you the best answers. Which, of course, is what self government is all about.
...once people have to take other person's into account, its pretty amazing to watch.
In the best sense, the kind of effect blogs would have, is that they bring people together like this.