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FIVE-POINT PLAN FOR DEMOCRACY

Democracy means rule by the people (from the Greek: "demos", meaning "the people or populace", and "kratia", meaning "power" or "rule"). Most of us in the United States and other "Western" countries take for granted that it is the best form of government rule. I am not going to justify that position; I will assume that if you are at this site that you agree that democracy is good and is what we want for our society. Furthermore, it is my contention that democracy is not faring particularly well in our country. This may run counter to the perceptions of many who might view the United States as being the "bastion of democracy" for the world. However, I am not going to argue this point either. I will assume that if you are at this site that you also have serious concerns about the state of democracy in our society. If you think that all is well with democracy in the USA, then you'll probably not find much of interest here. If, on the other hand, you share my concern for the state of democracy in our society, I had a five-point plan that I believe will lead to a truly democratic society in which the people hold the real power and the government is accountable to the people.

These five points are:

1. Elect Good People .

We need to elect people who are dedicated to the concept of democracy, and are not beholden to anyone other than the people of the United States. We want, and deserve, the very best of the best, the cream of the crop, and I don't believe the way that we currently carry out elections produces that. There is a better way.             Read more…

2. Keep Them Accountable.

Secrecy in government is not to be tolerated. Every elected leader needs to be open and accountable to the public for what he or she does. There are currently laws in place to make the government open to the people, but we need more.

3. Get the Word Out When Things Aren't Right.

When things are not going as they ought to, whether it be due to an elected official's corrupt practices or just poor judgment, we need to get that information out to the people. Our news media does a fair job of this, but it needs to do better.

4. Have a Mechanism in Place to Fix the Problem.

We should have mechanisms that automatically "kick in" when it is necessary to deal with a problem. We sometimes set up "ad hoc" committees to deal with issues as they are recognized, and, of course, we have the "ultimate" mechanism of impeachment, and even "more ultimate" mechanism of voting people out of office, but a better system is required.

5. Have a Populace That Will Demand That the Problem Be Fixed.

No mechanism is perfect, and the ultimate safety valve for democracy, of course, is the people themselves. Democracy won't work unless we have a population that is willing to stand up and demand, in no uncertain terms, that things be fixed when they need to be fixed.



At the present time, with a presidential election coming up in less than a year, I am focusing on the first point, electing good people. Once I have dealt with this point, I will go on to deal with the others.

Five-Point Plan Point #1-- Electing Good People.

People often like to point out that the problem with our system of electing people is the influence of "big money" in politics. It is felt by many that corporations and those who have been made rich by corporations have an inordinate amount of influence in elections because they are able to contribute inordinate amounts of money to those campaigns that they wish to support. It is felt that if we could get "big money" out of politics then we would have a more fair and democratic system. This is probably true. However, I would suggest that rather than trying to force the "big money" out of politics, that we simply make "big money" irrelevant. This has been very difficult in the past because people need to have money if they are going to advertise and make themselves known to the public – a lot of it if they are going to try to make themselves known to the entire populace of a country of 300,000,000 people! The news media has not been very helpful in this. They focus on those people who, by virtue of their money, have managed to get themselves in front of the public, rather than searching to find and inform us about those people who have not received "big money" and have not been influenced by those who have given it. However, things have changed, and we do now have one bit of technology which can really make a difference and help democratize the system – the system that I am presently taking advantage of: the Internet.

While I am generally hesitant to suggest technological solutions to problems that need to be addressed by human actions and social awareness, in this case the technology is all about communication, and communication is what makes the difference. We have all heard how the Internet has helped empower the "Arab Spring" that has been taking place in the Middle Eastern area of the world. It can also empower our efforts toward a greater democracy here at home. With the Internet, any person who is running for public office can make their information available immediately to millions of people across our society. We are no longer dependent on "the media" for our information -- we have our own medium, computers all over the world connected to each other through the Internet. Instead of listening to all the propaganda being poured out by the media, the parties, and those with money and influence, we have the ability to get the information that we want and need in order to make intelligent decisions. If, instead of voting for whoever the "hoopla" is all about in the news, we would each go to sites such as VoteSmart to learn about those candidates who really offer a switch from those that are being brought to us by "big money", each of us can find someone who truly best represents our interests and what we believe our society and our government should be. [Note: So far VoteSmart is the only site I have been able to find that has a comprehensive listing of candidates for office, although I have found some sites that deal specifically with presidential candidates. If anyone knows of any other sites that comprehensively cover candidates to various offices, please contact me at ward@wardricker.com and let me know so that I can add that information here. If the people of the United States start following this strategy of looking for this information online, more sites will undoubtedly appear to provide it.]

It will not be easy, however, to break hundreds of years of tradition which has conditioned us to think in terms of two parties. We tend to think that if we don't vote for one of the two candidates being promoted by the two major parties, we are then" wasting" our votes. In reality we are wasting our votes by voting for either Republican or Democrat! If you vote for either a Republican or Democrat you are voting to continue "business as usual" in our governments. If you want business as usual then go ahead and do that. But what we need is change – not the kind of change that Obama or the Democratic Party says that it offers, but a real change of the system, and that will only come about if we break the system. Yes, we need to break the system! That means we need to deny the vote to either of the two major parties. Then we can start to build a system that is independent of the "big money" and is accountable to the people. [The problem here is that even if we deny the popular vote to the Republican or Democratic candidate, the electoral college contingent from whichever state we are in is still likely to give the vote to one of those two candidates. This severely undermines our ability to claim democracy. We need to do away with this archaic and nondemocratic mechanism, but more about this in the following paragraph. Until we get rid of it, however, it is still important that we deny the popular vote to either of the two major parties. It is only when we do so, that we will force changes to be made.] So the first thing to do if you want to have good people in government, who are accountable to the people and not to corporations, moneyed interests, special interests, etc. is to determine that you will not vote for a Republican or Democrat in the upcoming election, and instead will do the research to find someone who is willing to work in a different way, such as by checking out the VoteSmart site. (Note: This doesn't mean you can never vote for a Republican or a Democrat. It just means that we have to break the stranglehold that the two parties and moneyed interests hold on the system by not voting for a Republican or a Democrat right now. Once we have achieved our goal, then if you feel a Republican or Democrat candidate best suits your inclinations, go ahead and vote for him or her. But first we need to break the stranglehold.)

There are, however, at least two barriers that still stand in our way: the electoral college, and the worry about "throwing away" ones vote by voting for somebody that one feels does not have the chance to win. So let's address these two issues. First, we simply need to do away with the electoral college. It is anti-democratic and it is a farce. (And [correct me if I'm wrong] no other democratic country on the face of the earth has such a ridiculous institution.) Need we look any farther then back at the 2000 election in which the fate of our country depended on the fate of a few hundred "hanging chads" in the state of Florida. Why did the situation exist? Of course, I don't mean why the chads were hanging. That is a matter of physics and paper chemistry. What I mean is, Why should a few "hanging chads" be of such tremendous importance to our election? Was the vote truly so close that those few ballots would really make the difference in who would become president? No! The reason that those chads were so important was that the entire vote of the entire contingent from the state of Florida was going to hinge on those results. Does that make any sense at all? Of course not. If roughly half the people of Florida voted for the Republican candidate and half voted for the Democratic candidate, then the vote from Florida should reflect that vote. If we had simply accepted the democratic process, and let our leaders be elected by direct popular vote, the issue would never have arisen. Indeed, it is extremely unlikely that any presidential election is ever going to be so close if we simply tally the popular vote that it is going to be held up by a few questionable ballots. If that farce in Florida in 2000 didn't make clear the stupidity of the electoral college, then what will? The rest of the world must have been having an incredible laugh at the antics of the "bastion of democracy"! Of course, getting rid of the electoral college requires amending the Constitution, which is not an easy thing to do. But it has been done before and can be done again, and it needs to be done. Let's do it!

The other issue that gets in the way of people voting for the person they truly want in office is the feeling that by not voting for one of the two major candidates they are "throwing away" their votes. People feel that the worst of the two major candidates may end up getting into office, and they will thereby sacrifice their opportunity to try to prevent that. First of all, this is an extremely negative way to vote. What kind of ridiculous system has us voting for someone we don't want just to keep somebody even worse out of office? I have a hard time imagining anything more ridiculous! But secondly, it really does not make a big difference whether a Republican or Democrat gets into office. If you think it does you need to get over it, because it doesn't! Yes, there are minor differences in one candidate or the other, or one party or the other may be somewhat more suitable to your sensibilities, but if either one gets into office we are still going to have the same old crap ("business as usual"). Yes, if that other guy gets into office he will be a horror. But, surprise! -- he will be only a little bit worse than the guy that you are voting for! However, the point I am trying to get to here is that there is a way that people can vote for who they really wish to vote for, and at the same time not "throw away the vote" if it comes down to the choice between the two major party candidates.

The problem is that, at least in the presidential race, if none of the candidates running receives a majority of the votes, then the popular vote is effectively "nullified" and the Congress gets to elect the president of the United States, with each state's contingent getting one vote. So how do we ensure that one candidate ends up getting a majority of the popular vote if we are each voting for our favorite out of many possibilities? The answer: Instant Runoff Voting. For those who are not familiar with this term, it is simply a way of voting that allows you to vote for who you really want to vote for, and if that person doesn't win, your vote still goes on to count for the next person that you would like to see win. The way it works is quite simple. Instead of marking one choice for, for example, president of the United States, you would mark your ballot indicating your first choice for president, second choice, third choice, etc. When the votes are tallied, if there is not a majority winner, the candidate who got the least number of votes is dropped from the roster, and the votes of whoever voted for that candidate then go to the second choice on their ballot. If there is still not a majority winner, the process is repeated until one candidate gets a majority. In other words, this is a way to have a revote as many times as necessary until one candidate gets a majority of votes, without people actually having to go back to the polls again. People go to the polls once, and the process reiterates until a majority is secured. This would have been difficult to do on a large scale in the past, but with the advent of computers this is not difficult.

So, what is our plan? At this point it consists of three things:
1. Don't vote for a Republican or a Democrat. Instead, go to a site where you can learn about all the different candidates running and choose the one that you really want.
2. Do away with the electoral college. Contact your senators and representative and tell them that it is time to do away with this archaic and undemocratic system.
3. Institute Instant Runoff Voting. Contact your senators and representative and tell them to write and pass the laws to establish instant runoff voting as the method for elections.

If we will do these three things, then our government will turn around and we will begin again to have true democracy, accountable to the people, and not to those interests that have the money, power and influence to dominate our system.

I will briefly "jump ahead" to point number five in the five-point plan: having a populace that will demand that the problem be fixed. Points #2 and #3 above require that we contact our representatives and make our demands known. However, these demands are not necessarily in the interests of those people who currently hold power. We cannot simply expect them to say, "Oh yes, this makes sense. Let's do it!" People who hold power generally like power, and don't feel particularly inclined to share that with the "lowly" populace -- even if they may claim to support democracy. (Power corrupts!) Being effective means that we need to not just ask for what we want, but truly demand it. Don't just write a letter and drop it at that. Call your senators and representatives to follow up. Call them every day. Call them 15 times a day. Hound the hell out of them! Let them know clearly that the only way that they will ever get your vote is to give the power back to the people in these ways. Be prepared to stand in a picket line every day for a month, or two months, or three months until they do what is right! And make sure all your friends do the same.

We have a system, a Constitution, that allows for democracy to happen in our country. But democracy only happens when the people take charge and make it happen. If we sit back and let the "processes that be" control what happens in our elections and in our government, then democracy slips out of our fingers. Let's take charge and bring the government back in control of the people and have true democracy.