Three Degrees of Representation (Part 3)

We’ve never had a democracy, and what we have now is barely a republic.

This is Part 3, about how far we can go, and how.

It started with (Part 1) Are we finally ready for direct democracy?, the initial “think piece”. Then came (Part 2) We’re All Pretty Reasonable.

#1: Basic Democracy + Federal Elections

These are the most basic changes we can make to increase the representational power of the people. 

For cases like the presidency, where there isn’t room for a plurality of peers, we can use some version of the national popular vote. The Electoral College is an archaic way of circumventing the voting power of the people. It allows an elite group of elected officials to overrule the choices of their own constituency, their own State. 

Additionally, by eliminating primaries the country will have a better chance of agreeing on a candidate, because we’ll have more options for the final count. 

The many hurdles that independent candidates must additionally overcome, must be removed. This ensures we have options — people with various solutions.

It should come as no surprise that less than half of the country voted in the last presidential election (50–60% of eligible voters, depending on who you ask). This number has been teetering at the edge of the majority for quite some time now —over 100 years. At that rate, 25-30% of the country determines the popular vote, and that fraction diminishes before we count the difference in swing state voter value or micro-population specific voter value. Then, the electoral college can go against that meager “majority”. (I covered this in Parts 1and 2.)

Consolidation of Congressional power into Two Parties is equally worrisome. There are several ways to deal with this, so we have candidates that represent us. It’s all about balancing and configuring these approaches. 

In one version, proportional representation occurs within a district (which would be larger than a district is now), and it applies to the specific representatives voted for in that district. That way, we preserve the status quo of voting for individual candidates and don’t end up with whoever the party chooses at national scale (which would make it less representative). We thus ensure that each smaller district and sub-district area gets represented — places that may have been redrawn into silence over the years.

It’s worth mentioning that the polls about these changes sometimes generalize proportional voting. There are several ways to organize it, that’s just one. Proportional Voting is a rather general term.

In order for proportional voting to work, we need more parties; not just the current outliers. Dividing the factions within the two parties as they are now — finding smaller parties to represent different aspects of the overgrown platforms — will ensure variety in Congress and full representation.

Here’s a list of ways to implement a better voting system — it’s not exhaustive, so by all means explore further. A good solution would be some combination of these ideas, which suits the local taste and political micro-climate. Overall, these voting styles aid in full representation. As with any laws, just make sure you look for any fine-print.

These can be, and often are, combined:

The relevant amendments and laws to (re)consider are:

  • The 12th Amendment — the Electoral College, amended Art 2, Sec 1, Clause 3 and the relevant info in Clause 2. We need to eliminate this, whether we handle voting per state or have a true national popular.
  • Article 1, Section 2, Clauses 1 and 3–to suit Proportional Voting when multiple seats are available/in legislative elections.
  • Optional: The 24th Amendment — if we want to eliminate primaries altogether. We can move things along without changing this one, we just need open primaries.

There are various movements working to make these improvements, including Equal Citizens, Equal Vote, FairVote and others.

Once we’ve instituted these voting process changes, as per our collective decisions, ballot edits, and procedures, we can have a true national popular vote for executive roles. Not a majority-of-the-minority, but someone who could conceivably represent the people as a whole. 

The key to success is making room for more parties; and eliminating the preferential treatment of the current two.

The first logical application for a popular vote is the presidential election (or gubernatorial ones within States). The first logical application for proportional approaches are Congressional elections (and State legislatures).

#2: Democracy In A Republic + “Appointments”

National popular appointments would solve the continuous hell that is the Supreme Court appointment system. In these cases, we vote as per elections; making these roles elected rather than appointed going forward. We could even instantiate a higher quorum, since these people serve for decades at a time. Supreme Court Justices are the perfect station for this process.

The highest court in the land, the highest legal station in our society, and the last word on case law, who remain as such until they die, should absolutely be chosen by the people they’re meant to rule.

This 2nd Degree of Representation could also include proportional voting whenever there’s more than one position being filled. This is optional. We could have ranked voting, and fill two seats at a time in those cases. There are many ways to tweak this (like not having them serve for life — but that’s another issue). There are already long stretches where there’s an even number of justices when appointments slow down; at least this way it would be odd, and maybe even decided more quickly. Again, this part is optional. 

Even still, with majority rule for each justice (not proportional), it’s highly probable we would choose someone less contentious, much more acceptable to us all, if we decide each Justice by national popular vote, rather than allow a temporary executive to decide for us.

When it comes to modifying this process for the Supreme Court, we should look at amending or replacing:

  • Article 1, Section 2, Clause 2 — which bestows the power of appointments on the president. 
  • Article 2, Section 2, Clause 3 — could (should) be eliminated completely, so that the president can’t institute a temporary puppet government in the Senate in order to get their appointment. If it’s an emergency, there are other legal provisions for dealing with the situation. The president does not need this power for our government to function.

These changes would look similar, though certainly not identical, to the 17th Amendment, which is probably the relative-best process we’re currently working with, to this end.

We could also extend this to the cabinet and parts of the executive branch. But, they have a wider variety of implications. It might not make sense for all of these appointments to be by national popular vote. 

Proportional voting is more easily applied here — voting for Secretary and Deputy via ranked ballots, or the top few executive positions at that organization. 

Theoretically, these government employees are supposed to work for us — just like the temporary executive (our president). We are the bottom line. We are the the collective boss. They should answer to us from hiring to firing. 

More to the point, there’s plenty of room for a “goal-oriented” person, with leadership qualities, to display that capable confidence, while also being enough of a team player to work with whoever else the public appoints. That is, after all, what we expect out of multi-partisan action in general, anyway.

So, who else can we elect via national popular, rather than through presidential appointment? The presidential cabinet, the heads of several major executive administrations. We may not have the organizational expertise to determine the best Director of the CIA (by nature of the organization), maybe not even the DOS, but we can certainly vote for HUD Secretary. 

Generally categorized, public works and public operations; anything in relation to the Interior that might interfere with our day-to-day actions, should be publicly elected instead of appointed. It will be better for all of the American People that way. 

We will have to decide carefully which organizations we make a public election process. Let’s not be too hasty. No more lists that you can lose things in — especially when single items on that list are actually enormous systems. 

Obviously, it would be highly inefficient to hire every employee by national vote. The elected leaders of the EPA, DOL, DOJ, and similar internal organizations that specialize in our everyday lives, will each have their turn to change their own organization and grow through their own methods internally — as organizations do — that’s why we need to elect those leaders for interior-focused organizations. 

I’m not suggesting we restructure and replace the entire government in the matter of one election! That would be ridiculous. 

I’m saying we should have more say in who leads and rules us.

The leadership of our immense nation —most importantly the ethical authorities in the Supreme Court — should earn and been given the trust of their office by the population of that country, the network of minds and hearts that is nearly 400 million people. 

Those whom they’re prescribed to serve.

Our extensive body of rights law is a testament to the fact that, no matter how bad things get, we believe in the American freedom of personal choice and shared decision making. I’ve already covered how we would make better choices than are made for us now. 

For all its faults, America is beneficially based on the idea that the many validate the few representatives. The logical conclusion to this enlightened assertion is that the people as a whole validate the government. If not the entire executive branch, but certainly the judicial and legislative, and the president.

The purpose of future government must be the people and our future. Who better to determine that than the people ourselves.

#3: Direct Democracy + Issue-by-Issue Voting

If we want to improve the integrity of our government, we could easily make one significant and delicate shift: from House or Senate Member as decision maker to congress member as executor of public will. 

Of course they would handle the day-to-day bargaining as bills are drafted, but they wouldn’t be able to vote on the issues without us anymore. We would decide — not whoever funded their campaign.

What if legislation — acts, amendments, congressional statutes of all kinds — were decided by the people, the many, rather than a few politicians? We could still have these elected officials manage operations — a Congressional representative would be elected to deal with different organizations, and be present in DC, but this time a truer representative of the people’s will. Completely beholden to our choices. 

Any new statutes or amendments, any new Congressional legislation, could be voted on. Continuations previously approved might not need a vote. Budgets, which are finely detailed, would be another deal entirely. This wouldn’t even have to include day-to-day foreign policy (though we would vote directly on going to war). 

Things like legalizing marijuana, which the vast majority of Americans approve of — with domestic, day-to-day effects and dire consequences of prohibition— should be managed by Americans. 

We could vote nationally, or vote on each issue within the representative constituency. Referendums, Initiatives & Direct Democracy is a great place to start exploring what issue-by-issue voting looks like.

There are a few ways to aggregate this. Here are just two examples:

Total National: In this scenario, popular vote across the country, by raw national count, would determine the passing or not of federal legislation. No more skewing the margins through subdivision or counting pockets. No more tilting the scale with this roundabout way of rounding up over and over again. We can all vote, as a country, on whether a bill gets passed or not. This way, we’ll each have a say and it won’t be diluted by stages of representation. Everyone’s voice will be heard with equal weight and measure. This is the farthest we can go.

That’s just one possible divestment of power.

Or, Per State/Constituency: In this scenario, there is still district-based clustering, but it leaves no room for diverging from public will. Voting happens on a case-by-case basis. No more choosing one person to make all of our decisions for us, for years at a time. The representative chooses how to vote on a bill based on how their constituency voted about that particular bill. Congress will still oversee its execution; and its new configuration will still be balanced by the ratios of the Senate.

Generally speaking, this involves a National Referendum. Here are some places to explore the idea for yourself, all about referendums:

One way or another, we do need to put as much decision making power back into the hands of the people as possible; if we want to get things done and do them well. Government can be really useful, but not if the logistics slow it down. Not if it’s going against the will of the people.

It’s usually the ultra-wealthy who try to convince the rest of us that we need absolute representatives, because we’re incapable of governing ourselves. They try to convince each of us that we’re better than the rest because we understand that. It’s supposed to make us feel smarter, more cultured and educational, to think that the rest of the country can’t be trusted with an equally counted voice.

It’s time to tidy up this project that is America: dust off the lights, light a relaxing scented candle, and have an honest conversation without all that construction noise. Instead of rebuilding our country every two years, let’s get it feeling good enough to live in it for a while. 

We’ll still have our ups and downs as cohabitants, but at least we can remove the excess obstacles and chatter which try our patience day after day. We can decide on things for ourselves, together, and more often — as new information and new feelings emerge.

Any elected official who votes for this amendment would finally prove to their constituency that they care about us, and not just themselves and their own position of power. A lack of support for such an amendment automatically brings their sincerity into question.

But, if we go so far as to choose the 3rd Degree, we’ll need to use new tech to do it.

If anything should be open source, it’s our electoral process; or at least the information that informs it.

My bank account is just as safe, if not safer, than my polling station — so why can’t I vote online? It’s only a matter of time before this country as a whole prefers accessing things this way — if we aren’t there already. Nearly every community in this country could find someone they trust to verify the veracity of an open government system.

This would make it easier for many people to vote, and for all voting to be more efficient. Elderly people, workers with long hours, day-care operators and others who can’t make it out to vote because of their schedule or their physical limitations, would have an easier time. 

But we don’t even need to go this far! The 1st Degree and 2nd Degree would be immense improvements!

In Conclusion

I believe we need to move in this direction, to whatever degree, towards a more direct and democratic system of representational government. However far we go, it’s not for me to decide for us collectively. There are various ways to address this, to configure our voting system as to better serve us and our interests. 

The conversation needs to be about how, not if. It needs to be about how far, not whether we make these changes at all. If we do choose a more direct democracy, at least we’ll know it’s us who decided for ourselves.

We need this; we owe it to ourselves.

Check out more 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.

FairVote page on low voter turnout:
This site is nonpartisan.

A left-of-center case for proportional voting:
Also from Vox:

A right-of-center case for proportional voting:
Also from National Affairs:

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).
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)

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.

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 explained this further, in Part 2.
Immigration: here, here, and here is a right-leaning channel discussing widespread approval of immigration.

Interesting Ideas to Explore:

Scarcity versus abundance in politics:

Fair Representation:

A 3D Map of the US Economy:

Supposedly this counts your vote:

The Donor Class:

The ACE Project:
ACE on Minorty Systems:

A Post-Gerrymandering Politic:

Hillary Clinton never helped women’s lib, nor feminism:

Ballotpedia: Initiative, Referendum, Populist and Progressive Eras, US:

Libertarians Aren’t That Bad:

Progressives Aren’t That Bad:

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

A considerate perspective on Market Socialism (which is not a libertarian thing, you’re confusing it with Mutualism):

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

EdGate/USA Today on the basics of the two parties:

Another take on the two-party system:

Factions within each party:

Basics of fairer voting and proportional voting can be found here:

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