Habib Olapade is a second-year law student at Yale University.
Throughout the last seventy-five years, the Supreme Court has explicitly and implicitly articulated two normative models for understanding the political activity in our representative democracy: liberalism and republicanism.  The models differ in that each provides a unique explanation for the social basis of human interests and legal rights as well as insight into what motivates citizens to engage in political activities. Republicanism posits that in substantive conflicts each state has a common interest that is independent of its constituents’ individual interests.  Under this theory, social and political rights are contingent upon political consensus rather than natural law or a commitment to a certain political philosophy.  Republican communities seek to establish and sustain a set of rights best suited to the community’s conditions and mores.  On the other hand, liberalism theorizes that, outside debates on procedures designed to ensure justice, the state can have no common interest that is independent of its constituents’ diverse desires.  Under this theory, the state’s citizens (and perhaps those outside the state) have a core set of rights that must be respected regardless of the voting majority’s political preferences. 
Republicanism and liberalism require its citizens to deliberate to achieve an end. Traditional deliberation requires participants to exchange ideas so that the polity can arrive at a reasonable answer to a public issue by voting.  Alternatively, voters can interact strategically, considering his or her own interests and then make conditional offers to others in the hopes of striking a bargain before the voting process begins.  This deliberation can serve one of two purposes. First, engagement may develop and refine one’s identity by forcing an individual to empathize with others and grapple with their views. In this theory, the political process provides benefits that are largely unconnected with casting a ballot. Second, deliberation may be valuable because it provides a forum for voters to assert and defend their rights and interests. These deliberative models can appear in republican and liberal states.