This is part one of a six article series. All six articles have now been published:
- A New Proposal For A Practical Democracy Built On Public Agreement
- The Flaws In Our Existing Voting Machinery
- Creating A More Democratic Process By Correcting Existing Flaws
- The Mechanics Behind A New Election System
- A New Way To Encourage Political Participation By Design
- Practical Democracy: The Next Step In The Evolution Of Democracy
When we speak of government by the people, ‘the people’ is not an amorphous mass. It is an abundance of individuals: some brilliant, some dull; some good, some bad; some with integrity, some deceitful. To achieve government by the people, we must sift through this diversity to find the individuals with the qualities needed to address and resolve contemporary public concerns.
In a truly democratic political process, the entire electorate will participate in defining the issues the government must address and agreeing on the individuals best equipped to resolve those issues. The size of the electorate and the varying level of interest in public affairs among the populace make the matter of including everyone a challenge.
In this presentation, we will develop a method of dividing the electorate into very small groups. The groups will agree which member is the best advocate of the group’s concerns. Those so chosen will be arranged in similar groups to continue sifting through the electorate to identify the individuals most motivated and best qualified to address and resolve the people’s concerns. The method will create a practical political infrastructure built on the concerns the people hold in common and on the individuals they agree are best qualified to address and resolve those concerns.
Democracy is a word whose significance has been buried under a mountain of misdirection and myth. In the United States, the people have been persuaded that voting for a candidate nominated by a political party is democratic.
In fact, that is the most outrageous political myth we’ve endured since the people were told that kings ruled by Divine Right.
In our party-based system, the people elected to write our laws are chosen by those who finance the political parties. The parties act as conduits for the money that controls our government. Politicians have been incredibly successful in dividing our nation against itself, while deluding the people into believing they are governing themselves.
When one votes for a candidate chosen by a political party, they are giving support to a group of cynical, unprincipled, power-seekers who are backed by vast sums of money.
Voting for a party candidate simply confirms the right of a small group of people to control and run the country.
The challenge of democracy is not to divide the people into parties that compete for the power to rule. The challenge is to find the best advocates of the common interest and raise them to positions of leadership.
To meet that challenge, given the range of public issues and the way each individual’s interest in political matters varies over time, an effective electoral process must examine the entire electorate during each election cycle, seeking the people’s best advocates. It must let every voter influence the outcome of each election to the best of their desire and ability.
If we are to have democracy, we must conceive, validate and adopt a political process that gives the people – all the people – an opportunity to participate in the practice of politics. It must let the people deliberate among themselves and agree on the issues they want resolved and the individuals they think best able to resolve them.
The realities of life, particularly our economic needs, tend to distract us from serious thought about public concerns. These circumstances have allowed the political infrastructure in the United States to gradually deteriorate until, as Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page¹ conclude, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.” One of their striking findings is:
“The nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the
preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
These results should not be surprising. Justice Louis Brandeis² is quoted as saying, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Organized political power and concentrated wealth feed off each other. The political process in the United States epitomizes this relationship.
If we wish to change our entrenched system, we should start by heeding John Dewey’s guidance³:
“The old saying that the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy is not apt if it means that the evils may be remedied by introducing more machinery of the same kind as that which already exists, or by refining and perfecting that machinery.”
Thus, we need new machinery that differs from existing machinery in important ways. That requires an understanding of the flaws in the existing machinery. In my next article, I’ll look at some of those flaws and ways of correcting them to build a political system based on agreement among the people rather than the divisive system that currently tears us apart.
¹ Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page (2014). Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.
² Wikiquote, Louis Brandeis
³ Search for the Great Community, p293