Are we finally ready for direct democracy?


The Two Parties have failed to represent Americans. Full representation is required, and indeed possible.


If you want to jump to suggestions for what to do about it, see (Part 3) Three Degrees of Representation.

This is the initial ‘think piece’. There’s a micro-library of graph-y links with yummy data at the end of each article, to peruse and digest in your own way.

After this, check out (Part 2) We’re All Pretty Reasonable, for a brief review of how we’re all much more chill than current narratives would have us believe.

In what ways could our government better limit the power of any few? What if the people actually decide who is elected? Or even, who is appointed? Or vote democratically on an issue by issue basis? You might not want to go that far, but currently we barely have a republic.


For the last 100 years, 40–50% of voters didn’t vote at all. Every time, whichever of the Two Parties won, 40–50% of eligible voters just didn’t feel compelled to participate in a clearly inadequate system offering inadequate choices. In this way, among others, we haven’t fully emerged from feudalism.

Over the last 100 years, only 25–30% of eligible voters voted for “the winner”. That means the number of non-voters was consistently greater than those who voted for either party, and often outnumbered the Democrats and Republicans combined.

Yet we’re told that a vote outside of these parties is like not voting at all. That we should fall in line with a norm that just doesn’t exist.

This data gets bleaker the more we focus on recent decades, in case you’re wondering. In context, it seems reasonable to assume that many of those who did vote also felt the choices were lacking and voted reluctantly.

We need to change the choices we’re given and how decisions are made, if we want to change things here.

We’ve been going around in circles lately, and it’s time to level up.

How can we even begin to assess the success or failure of The People’s chosen government, if we didn’t really choose them in the first place? Given the opportunity, most people wouldn’t vote for any of the candidates you’ve found disdainful in your lifetime. The answer is simple: we need more, better and different choices.

We need to make sure our votes count, in every way.


The Two Parties, Not The People, Are The Problem

Given the choice between the lesser of two evils, ignorance and intelligence have little to do with what’s wrong here.

Our low voter turnout should make us question the system itself, the corruption of its purpose; rather than turn to outreach, “voter education” or party recruitment. You don’t even need moral corruption (which also happens), for the effects of a system to be counterproductive and inadequate — for its purpose to be corrupted. Like a broken file.

The most common argument against direct democracy is that most people are ignorant or would make harmful decisions — that we’re better off letting the Two-Party candidates rule us. We’re told that those who currently vote outrank non-voters in intelligence and political knowledge. But, those who currently vote for the Two Parties go to the trouble of voting because we’re motivated by emotion as much as by thought.

There’s little reason to believe an intelligent enough person would necessarily be convinced that any party candidate was best for this country.

In fact, whoever we’re afraid of are just a small group acting out. Everyone else would just as soon protect us from them.

When we do vote, we’re scared of another candidate winning, angry about or afraid of something — not because we’re smarter nor because we’re less so. For most voters, it’s not because that candidate is ideal or truly beneficial for this country.

If one issue is dear to your heart, you’re forced to vote for a whole slew of issues you might not care that much about (or disagree with), or even vote for politicians you know are corrupt and undesirable.

The problem is exacerbated when we remember that the candidates themselves come from a very limited pool of party choices. This is why we believe our votes don’t count and don’t participate — because in reality they barely do. It’s a perfectly reasonable choice not to vote. It may even display other convictions.

It also happens to be costly to vote in time and money, which is a major hurdle for people in every state. Many were left out of the count without any choice. We need to change that going forward.

The first task is to recognize our shared predicament: The current system is detrimental to us all. It doesn’t represent us. No matter what you believe or are subjected to, it’s bad — real bad. We all have this in common.

The current situation is categorically opposed to every kind of political ism we try to keep in balance in our country. Whatever your favorite government format is, if you’re not the very smallest minority in this country — the very, very wealthiest few — what we have now doesn’t work for you. It might protect your property, but little else.

The polarization we’re shown to fear is inaccurate, not least of all because of “double-dipping” — the most partisan people are the most likely to vote and stop for polls, so when we dissect voters we’re dissecting mostly partisan people. Then we look at everyone through these two categories, which most people don’t fit into anyway.

We all have very similar core values. Problems arise because politicians are defined by their ability to convince the most engaged that they have our interests at heart. These political arguments are shaping how we view each others’ culture, wrangling our own values for the sake of the party platforms.

But these parties are barely shaped by us in return.

Our country has a long history of taking one thing which keeps the powerful in power, and combining it with another thing which helps the downtrodden. Each party presents the inverse (they switch off), posing them as the only two options.

We’ve been thrown our bones, in different directions.

Even the forefathers of this government would find this supposed progress in conflict with their principles. Here I reference Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the economic forefathers — Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, etc. Yes, even those paragons of the old-capitalist-white-man type would say that enough is enough. Whether they would agree on proportional voting versus direct democracy is debatable — but they would certainly be appalled and choose either over what we have now.

And that’s saying something; since you can’t get much more old fashioned in this country than that.

We need to make sure that our votes lead to representation.


We’re Already Nonpartisan

Over the last fifty or sixty years, we’ve seen fewer alignment periods — more often citizens don’t subscribe to a particular party, and too many votes are reluctant. We’ve had shorter periods of staunchly divided party politics, something ideologues call coherence. But it’s these two platforms which are incoherent, not us. Our parties should conform to our beliefs — not the other way around.

We never asked for an endless political cold war.

As divergent as we might seem right now if you gauge by public figures, it will pass. Because most of us don’t fit into the current categories, and both of the Two Parties have incoherent logic. If we release the bipartisan hold on our system, independents and other parties will emerge.

For example, most people agree that the lobbyist economy is a plague on our democratic republic. It’s the taproot of whichever power structure you’ve chosen to combat. In public debate, this gets twisted into generalizations — about which lobbyists are helping or hurting, redirecting us to the rights of the little guy to contribute to their causes, or which industries are good or bad for us, and why we need good lobbyists to combat the evil money. This expands its rotten roots, when we would all rather quickly decide to cut it out and not waste the water.

But we wouldn’t have to worry about whose lobbyist is whose to begin with, if our governing decisions weren’t for sale. We would all be better off without this. Yet, neither party has been effective at dealing with it. Too often we take the bad for granted. Too often we take it as a given, and allow ourselves to get distracted.

If we had a direct say, we would all vote for laws that limit this fairly. But our supposed representatives don’t, in this and other issues… Other systems do this by referendum.

At the very core of these problems is the election system itself.

We can improve this by providing voters with more options; more and different configurations of combining issues, and less of these lump-sum platforms. Whatever happened to the single issue party? What if that party always had a seat, un-silenced, and that issue didn’t make or break other decisions? What if you could rank your votes as an expression of your priorities, without forsaking any? Or what if we agreed on that one issue, made it better, and moved on to others we don’t yet agree on?

There are so many ways to do this more effectively. Each option entails giving the power of scale back to the people who are part of it.

We could enact measures to make room for five or more parties, so that far fewer voices are silenced, who would then work together in a more manageable playing field. Or measures that make room for none, and enable a fully direct democracy, if we went all the way. Either approach would be a vast improvement. Combining them feels more American.

The survival of these two polarized parties depends on us not realizing that we’re capable of working together as we are now.

The problem is, we are shown the will of so few, who are supposedly representing so many.


American is…

Repeatedly overcoming the tyranny of corrupt representatives and leaders in all arenas.

The conviction of true freedom from persecution and abuse. The assertion of our equal rights.

Although flawed and initially incomplete, these are our cultural inheritance.

For just a moment, at its inception, this government was the most innovative technology in the world. Of course, it was instantiated on stolen land, and framed by a mostly pseudo-idealistic uppermost-class. But it was a new way of doing things, a synthesis of governments past.

It was improved and vastly preferred over the classical feudalism that most of those people were subjected to in their days on almost all the continents East of the Atlantic, including but not limited to Europe.

Many of our ancestors were advertised to with lies, many were forced to come in relative degrees of servitude or slavery, and many were refugees of abusive systems in the “Old World”, seeking mere survival.

Everyone who showed up here had been traumatized somehow.

Compared to the empires of old, the US laid the groundwork for a very different kind of empire. In name and spirit, the US billed itself as better for The People. Everyone involved had a different idea of what it was meant to be — some conflicting with others. They recognized their shared challenges, long enough to get things done. They took steps in a direction they agreed would be an improvement — maybe not ideal, but definitely better than the generation before them

They chose to focus on a shared chance for something better, rather than argue over which kinds of messed up they were.

Maybe they didn’t approve of how each other handled life in that unfair society, but that didn’t stand in the way of taking action together to improve it.

They didn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

So, they looked for the right kinds of compromise, which would foster the conditions that make it easier for people to do the right thing by one another, rather than more difficult. 

A few predatory law-makers and business men spoiled some of those dreams, but improvements were made nonetheless.

Like many who have come here since, they believed their descendants would get along better than they did. They focused on that responsibility to the future. 

Those settlers, slaves and immigrants had a much harsher reference point, compared to the standards we hold ourselves to today. The key ideals which we now uphold were embedded into our country’s first laws, even back then. 

It’s because of those underlying ideals, however hypocritical at times, that we’re able to have this conversation and judge their morality like we do. 

However often the fine-print and power-players have acted otherwise (and it would take near-infinite time to list how often), there are still strong grounds within our laws which provide for a good and dignified life for everyone, no matter how you define the good life.

Things do change. Don’t take the bad as a given.

Our Constitution was an amalgamation of various local practices, philosophies, and the influence of many cultures, into a unique configuration, with a few lines inserted later to the benefit of some hardball advocates. Even then, the founders feared what partisan politics would do to us later. They understood.

Democracy is the antidote to tyranny.

If we’re going to make things better, we must embrace both our popular guardianship as a nation, and our love of individual freedom, working in tandem and not at odds with each other.


We’re Willing & Able

We’ve never actually seen a democracy, yet the masses (or one interest group) get blamed for current conditions. Every generation has known horror, and we’ve never known direct democracy. Or fair representation. It has a solid chance of being better than what we have now.

Let’s give ourselves the chance to express the fact that our interests are already aligned.

We have a strong need to call in the American precedents and principles we share. What this government could be, or could be closer to, is a web of our individual wills. 

What we’re currently experiencing is the differential access to free will.

Ignore what the most interesting stories in telecom tell you. Most of us are ready to change it, would if we could, and there’s extensive precedence to collectivize that will. Certain laws could be changed so that we are not subjected to this any longer.

Fortunately, we generally agree on key problematic laws and issues — it’s just that they get split up from each other. When easy issues are put into party platforms, they’re combined with tough ones. We don’t get a chance to show how reasonable we all are.


We will allow ourselves to go this way when we realize that a more direct involvement wouldn’t lead to chaos. It would lead to greater collaboration.

A national popular vote for elections and appointments would correct and strengthen the representative system itself. Additionally or alternatively, proportional voting would ensure no voice is silenced. 

We have several better options than what we have now.

All I ask is that you spend these fifteen minutes, an hour tops if you read all three parts and pause between them. Think about what would really be best for this country. From a place of curiosity, optimization, and pondering, to imagine, and consider. What’s the best that it could really be? I think you’ll find many practical options are better than what we have now, even if they don’t perfectly match your individual ideal. 

Would we just argue more? I don’t think so.

Most people don’t seem inclined to vote in any way that would harm even minority interest groups. Take any single issue that’s under federal jurisdiction, and the vast majority of us would agree on it or compromise.

In Part 2, I explore this assertion further with polling data, and most importantly according to stats from institutions with conflicting interests. (See a list of links below and/or read Part 2).

For any given group of people, the news outlets tend to take the scariest outliers and show them to the people who would be most afraid of them. It garners the most intrigue and engagement, and it’s the way it’s been done since before television went public. Everyone being generally agreeable isn’t news.

Whoever you heard about, whatever you’re upset about, it’s probably not something most people in the country would vote to enforce on you anyway.

If you think it’s wrong, most people probably do too.

Representatives and outlets tell different constituents different stories about the same law, and these representatives vote for things for different reasons in the first place. 

Generalizations and majorities can be reasonable measurements. Problems arise when we apply them to those who aren’t counted into the group; which is most of this country when it comes to politics.

Discussion instead of distrust.

If you check the Congressional RSS feed for new laws, most posts reference changes to old ones and provide no real information about the tactical implications, even if you understand legalese. Most people want a system that doesn’t require lawyers for national legislation — socially conscious lawyers agree with this especially so. 

Obscure legislation is not a sound argument for depriving the people of due voting power — we need to make legislation more legible.

Even if we set aside human bias, error and corruption, the logistics themselves are counterproductive to representation and involvement.

A far greater number of people, from all US regions and socioeconomic groups, agree on individual issues more than they approve of any one representative, any political party, or any government body.

When we lump all of these issues together, into a party platform, one hard topic holds up progress on everything else. We will, of course, go on arguing over those hot button issues, but in the meantime we could keep the government working on the issues we do agree on.

If you look back at official history, the founding fathers knew party politics would ruin us this way. They knew it would divide us more. Let’s finally deal with it.

Some have argued that the governmental structure, as is, and most importantly the US Constitution itself, will protect us and preserve the highest ideals of our country. To a certain extent, I agree. We can make the necessary modifications within the parameters of our constitution — it’s called an amendment. And changes do need to be made.

The approach is lawful, legal and rights-based.

There are so many laws, fine-print statutes and more public acts from the last two centuries, which could be removed or rewritten to the benefit of all. We can, and should, be doing much better than we are with the resources available, and even within the initial confines of the Constitution.

Most people want our economy to function well, deprive none, aid those in need, encourage productive creativity, and reward those who contribute.

Most people want to be free to have fulfilling lives, without harming other people.

Most people want violence to be minimized, without forsaking justice, self-autonomy, or freedom from persecution.

We won’t make hate crimes easier.

We won’t make any group’s lives worse than another.

We will make everyone’s lives better than they are now.

Most people will seek more information, when the path of least resistance isn’t locked-in party politics.

We already agree on these things.


Why now? What’s different?

Nothing, and everything. The biggest difference is that we have the technology for some very micro-managed direct voting. We don’t even need new tech at our polling stations.

We just need to change what’s on the ballots, to make these improvements.

We now live in a world where people are vastly more aware of each other. In our times, even without changing our polling methods, our collectivized intelligence, information availability, exchange of thought and connectivity have increased greatly.

We have the means to overcome confirmation bias in ways we never could before. 

We’re already sharing information and stories through more personal media, which we could have a lot more time to explore if we spent less time distracted by the party to-do. New media are the greatest threat to maintaining a divided public.

Most of all, we’re more aware of what barriers are in our way.

Where we didn’t realize our divisions before, we now have ample means to work through them.

Where we didn’t realize our similarities before, we now have ample means to explore them.

We can’t put tech back in its box, but we do have a chance to make it work for everyone living in this country. These digital realms have enabled us to develop our ideas more thoroughly.


We can so quickly and effortlessly become informed.

This country is certainly at the point when this could work. We have access to academic, popular and more particular methods, explored through so many different subjects and lenses, which can be made available to all, from and to many more variations of culture and its nuance.

That which was once only accessible to the few, is on its way to national universality. 

With instant dissemination, the masses are now able to access nearly all relevant thought and information for any given topic that was once left only to the representatives and executives. That which was once only available when approved by them. Our current barriers to communication are easily removed artifice.

The best possible conditions have finally arisen — for an understanding, informed and intelligent mass populous.

Grassroots could be nation-wide.

These changes can allow us to fix what has always been broken, and improve what isn’t broken quite yet.


In Conclusion

It’s quite simple, really. Let’s give ourselves a chance to have a direct say in our government — whether more often per issue, more fairly counted, without an electoral college or district-lining, more open to different types of candidates and new platforms, with ranked voting instead of primaries, or a combination of all of the above.

Rather than hoping for the best and sacrificing one conviction for another, to a party candidate we hope will be better than ‘the other guy’, we can take back our authority and make our government more true to us.

We can make less compromises while also being more pragmatic.

Anyone old enough to have lived through judicial appointments, sometimes loved and most often hated by most people, knows that the process is exceptionally counterproductive as it is.

Anyone young enough to have hope knows that jadedness is opposed to righteousness.

The best thing we can do for this country is change our voting system.

Whatever our status and context, we all have no choice but to deal with the many consequences dealt by, and mostly to, our bygone ancestors. Most of them being mostly forgotten. And we have every capability to do right by every one of them. It’s an easy choice to make.

Maybe you don’t believe me yet that it could possibly work, but I bet you wish it would.

We can absolutely do this with less attention and time, and more trust, than we spend worrying about it now. Let’s not sit on the edge of our seats, fearing the next appointment.

The People don’t need a horde of lobbyists shifting the tides of our future.

We need a sea of Americans making our own waves.


Read about how we’re all pretty chill, in (Part 2) We’re All Pretty Reasonable.

Check out some of my work here on Medium or view my portfolio. I also write longer academic papers… and I’ll follow almost anyone on twitter, because curiosity beats confirmation bias.


Please explore the following micro-library!

Top 40 links, with the bare bones info at the bottom. Let me know if you’re looking for more…

Top 5 Links + 1 Documentary:

“The Paradox Of Proportional/Party Voting Vs. Winner-Take-All Voting”: 
A thorough summary of the bare dynamics of the issue. Nonpartisan.
https://decentralize.today/the-paradox-of-proportional-party-voting-vs-winner-take-all-voting-6f3244b265e6

FairVote page on low voter turnout:
This site is nonpartisan.
https://www.fairvote.org/voter_turnout

A left-of-center case for proportional voting:
 https://www.vox.com/polyarchy/2018/3/26/17163960/america-two-party-system-constitutional-democracy
Also from Vox: https://www.vox.com/2014/4/18/5624310/martin-gilens-testing-theories-of-american-politics-explained

A right-of-center case for proportional voting: https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-case-for-proportional-voting
Also from National Affairs: https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/a-center-that-can-hold

Voter Study Group: 
Extensively breaks down current partisan voter politics in this country in a useful way. (It has a Dem bias in analysis, but the data is clean enough).
https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publications/2016-elections/political-divisions-in-2016-and-beyond
They also found support for a 3rd Party is near 70%, and reaches about 80% with near-center responses (which is a better indicator of non-voters): https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publications/2018-voter-survey/spoiler-alert

Fail State (movie):
Documentary on education poli-economic corruption that virtually indicts both parties, and is a good example of how things go with most, not allissues. 
https://failstatemovie.com/

Interesting Ideas to Explore:

Scarcity versus abundance in politics: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/opinion/trump-republicans-scarcity.html

Fair Representation:
https://www.fairvote.org/fair_rep_in_congress#why_we_need_the_fair_representation_act

A 3D Map of the US Economy:
https://howmuch.net/articles/where-the-money-is-by-metro-area

The ACE Project:
http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/pc/default/mobile_browsing/onePag
ACE on Minorty Systems: http://aceproject.org/main/english/es/esc07b.htm

Supposedly this counts your vote:
https://www.countable.us/issues/equal-pay

The Donor Class:
https://www.demos.org/publication/why-voting-matters-large-disparities-turnout-benefit-donor-class

A Post-Gerrymandering Politic:
https://decentralize.today/another-way-to-neutralize-gerrymandering-dont-change-the-map-change-how-the-votes-are-counted-215901d89222

Hillary Clinton never helped women’s lib, nor feminism:
https://solidarity-us.org/atc/175/p4390/
https://www.versobooks.com/books/2121-false-choices

Ballotpedia: Initiative, Referendum, Populist and Progressive Eras, US:
https://ballotpedia.org/History_of_initiative_and_referendum_in_the_U.S.

Libertarians Aren’t That Bad:
https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/tgif-free-market-socialism/

Progressives Aren’t That Bad:
https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/tom-malleson/economic-democracy-in-21st-century

A couple isms worth revisiting, of near-infinite isms recorded in English:

Economic democracy — Wikipedia
Proponents of economic democracy generally argue that modern capitalism periodically results in economic crises…en.wikipedia.org
Post-capitalism — Wikipedia
Postcapitalism is said to be possible due to major changes information technology has brought about in recent years. It…en.m.wikipedia.org
Mutualism (economic theory) — Wikipedia
Mutualism is an economic theory and anarchist school of thought that advocates a society with free markets and…en.wikipedia.org
Market socialism — Wikipedia
For the left-libertarian proposals sometimes described as “market socialism”, see mutualism (economic theory). For the…en.wikipedia.org

A considerate perspective on Market Socialism (which is not a libertarian thing, you’re confusing it with Mutualism):
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/37396/

Examples of how we agree on more than you think:

Several Issues/General:here, here, here and here.
Environment: here, here.
Justice: here, here.
Gender: here, here, here.
Guns: here, here and here. I explain this further, in Part 2.
Immigration: here, here, and here is a right-leaning channel discussing widespread approval of immigration.

Logistics of fairer voting, proportional voting, etc., can be found here:

Ranked-Choice Voting, Open Ticket Voting, Cumulative Voting, Proportional Voting, Single Transferable Vote, Two-Round Voting. (The best outcomes require removing closed primaries, or primaries altogether.)

More on the two-party system (oh yeah, that ridiculously limited thing we live by):

EdGate/USA Today on the basics of the two parties:
http://www.edgate.com/elections/inactive/the_parties/

Another take on the two-party system: http://origins.osu.edu/article/breaking-hard-do-americas-love-affair-two-party-system