Voting Is Disempowering
Why is this? The vast majority of Americans are proud of our democratic heritage and are strong advocates of spreading democracy around the world. And about 85% say they believe citizens have a duty to vote in every election. What’s the problem?
Since most people aren’t well informed, when it comes time to vote, many people may feel that they don’t know enough to cast a meaningful vote and may feel reluctant to turn out. They may hope that someone more informed than they are will make a good voting choice. This is would be a responsible and even admiral decision, since bad voting decisions can only lead to bad government. Only a masochist would encourage the uninformed to vote.
Many people are cynical about government and distrust politicians, and many subscribe to the view that “most politicians don’t really care what people like me think.” They feel that their vote doesn’t make a difference, and that it doesn’t much matter which candidate wins an election. They may be appalled by the spectacle—the circus that elections have become, full of conflict, negativity, and manipulation. Many people are quite angry, even taking to the streets and protesting that special interests are controlling government and the needs of the people are being ignored. They may very well feel helpless, concluding that voting doesn’t work, so there is no point in bothering. It’s easier to just stop caring. Not voting could be a form of protest against a broken and uncontrollable government.
The reality is that the way we use voting today makes no sense. A vote is a binary form of communication—a yes or a no. It cannot convey anything more than that. When there are many issues involved or when multiple messages need to be communicated, all meaning is stripped out in a vote. Voting only makes sense as a way for a group to make a decision on a specific issue. When the issue is an election, there must be continuous two-way communication after the election so that representatives can be responsive to the voters. Voting the way we do makes us feel like we are participating, but without two-way communication after the election it is utterly disempowering—it excludes us from real participation. People don’t typically think of it in these terms, but they surely feel it—they understand this intuitively, and it undoubtedly prevents them from voting.
If voting is so ineffective, why do people vote? One of the key “benefits” attributed to political parties is that they compel citizens to vote. With two nationwide organizations competing for control of government, elections become huge spectacles of competition. This encourages citizens to view the political world as a struggle between Democrats and Republicans, where each of us can pick a side and participate by casting a vote. The news media thrives on the competition, and hypes it by focusing intensely on the strategy and tactics of the candidates and parties, turning it into a circus.
When a candidate from our favored team wins an election we cheer and share their victory, and we feel empowered by the process. Supporters of the losing team despise the winners and eagerly follow their own team to find out how they will reform themselves for the next fight. This is little different than a fierce rivalry between two college football teams in the same state. It is also consistent with studies that have found that people who are most informed about politics tend to be the most partisan, and the more strongly partisan people are the more likely they are to vote. This is a perverse phenomenon—one feared and loathed by the Framers of our Constitution. The Framers wanted elections to turn on the character of individuals, not on party politics.
Most people undoubtedly want to participate in democracy and to be good citizens. By voting, we feel like we are participating, which makes us feel that our government is legitimate. This makes us passive and accepting of whatever government does, thinking—inattentive as we are—that government is working in our interest.
Does Democracy Matter?
We expect people to be informed about politics, but it is not practical for them to be informed. We expect people to vote, but voting is an extremely limited form of participation. How can we have democracy when the public is excluded from participating?
Is it okay if our government is a pretend democracy? We seem to be muddling through it okay. People aren’t rioting in the streets and there are many prosperous people in America. Should we assume that since we haven’t destroyed ourselves by now that things are fine the way they are? Perhaps real democracy doesn’t really matter.
Why do we have democracy in the first place? What are we missing out on?
The reason we have democracy is that by participating in government and in making the laws that we must live by, we can be free. By governing ourselves rather than being subject to the control of others who are more powerful than we are, we can be free of their oppression and exploitation.
But how much influence do you feel like you have in government? And how many examples of special interests getting favorable treatment from the government can you think of? Dozens? Hundreds?
If “we the people” can’t control our government, someone else will, and it is only natural that those with the most financial and organizational resources will succeed. They will use the government to serve their own self-interest, and the public interest will be given short shrift.
This leaves us open to enormous risks. Consider how many wars our country has been involved in over the last few decades. How is it that a “democracy” is the target of terrorists and so often finds it necessary to kill people around the world? Consider how the financial industry nearly wrecked our economy just a few short years ago and how little has changed to reform the industry. Consider all of the warnings we hear from scientists about global warming and how successful special interests have been at discrediting their warnings for the sake of their own profits. It is not inconceivable that we could destroy ourselves.
We are being oppressed and exploited in thousands of small, and in some cases not so small ways. Our culture maintains a facade of freedom that has kept us semi-free, and our politicians beat their chest and tell us we are free, but we’re fooling ourselves. Our freedom is limited and increasingly endangered.
Prosperity in America exists in spite of our out-of-control government. Our prosperity is the result of the hard work, smarts, and innovativeness of the people. If our government had been working in the public interest all along, however, we would certainly be more prosperous.
Without real citizen participation we cannot be free, and we expose ourselves to grave danger. We need to stop expecting people to meet an ideal that is contrary to human nature and instead change our system of democracy to one that accommodates human nature.
Local Electors Is Real Democracy
When we have legal problems, rather than trying to educate ourselves about courts, legal practices, and laws, we instead delegate our legal needs to a lawyer. This is far more efficient, and we get far better results by doing so. We should delegate our representation needs to a Local Elector for the same reason. Local Electors would be people with an interest in government and in representing members of their community, and they would be dedicated full-time to being informed about politics and pursuing the interests of the community. Local Electors would be in a much better position to do this than individual citizens since they would be connected to office holders and would have a good understanding of how government operates.
Our society is built on the efficient use of delegation. Rather than growing food ourselves, most of us delegate food production to farmers and food distribution to grocery stores. Rather than chopping down trees and building fires to light and heat our homes we delegate light and heat production to power companies and manufacturers of lighting and heating products. We need to get ourselves out of the 1787 mindset when it comes to democracy. Our society has progressed in amazing ways in the last 225 years, but our democracy still operates the same way it did before the invention of the light bulb.
Delegating representation to a Local Elector would alleviate the need for citizens to be informed about issues they don’t care about and what a distant government is doing. Citizens could fully participate in democracy by participating in their community—a small, naturally occurring form of organization where citizens would be connected to one another and to the government through their Local Elector. Issues community members are concerned about would be advocated for in government by their Local Elector, and they could hold her accountable for the results she produced. By being connected to the government and part of a community that is part of the government, people would naturally become interested in politics more than they are now. Participation would be very natural and democracy would be real.
What Will You Do?
The only way we can fix our democracy is if the people make it happen. Our politicians have prestigious jobs with power and influence and the best job security in America—why would they create such change? The special interests that control our government are benefiting at the public expense—they certainly won’t initiate change either, and some may fight against it. Fixing our democracy is the responsibility of the people.
Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to being excluded from democracy that apathy has become our normal condition. We are experts at bitching and moaning about government, but real participation is an abstract concept. Unless we are in great pain, doing nothing is easy. What will it take to get you involved in making Local Electors a reality?
Will you wait for another major financial collapse? Will it take another misbegotten war and several trillion dollars more in national debt? Will truly massive environmental destruction or another devastating terrorist attack inspire you? It would be much easier to fix our government now than to wait until we suffer a catastrophe down the road. There is no reason to expect the future will equal the past—if we wait, we may find that it has become too late.
There is a saying in Spanish: “La libertad no está dada…se toma,” which means “Liberty is not given—it’s taken.” It’s unreasonable for you to expect someone else to fix your government and hand you your freedom. Freedom doesn’t work that way. It must be taken—and you must take it! Freedom comes with responsibility. If you want to live in a democracy and be free you must take responsibility yourself.
We can fix our democracy by simply assuming this new form of democracy and talking with the people around us. If you tell everyone you know about Local Electors, and encourage them to learn about it and tell everyone THEY know, the entire country could be informed within a few weeks. Once we have created widespread awareness we can have a serious national conversation about making it happen. Make Local Electors an important issue with everyone you know. Don’t wait for someone else—empower yourself. Be brave!
In addition, we need financial resources in order to build an organization and advocate Local Electors. Nothing is possible in a democracy without organization. Please contribute to our organization. We can only be as strong as our financial resources allow us to be.
“A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” – Bill Vaughan
Continue Reading: How Large Numbers Makes Democracy As We Know It Impossible