Saturday, March 22, 2008

Where Is Our Democracy Heading?

Some time ago I published an article that discussed the differences between a representative democracy and a direct democracy. The United States of America utilizes a representative democracy because you and I are represented by senators and congresspersons that vote on legislative agendas. They supposedly carry your will in the halls of Congress through proxy if you want to call it that but I still believe this type of democracy disappoints us more and more as time passes.

The last time I wrote on the subject I expressed my interest in a direct democracy but received no feedback probably because you crashed your forehead into the monitor after falling into a deep sleep triggered by my article. I readily admit that I am a sociologist and not a political science expert yet still I cannot understand some of the founding fathers support of a representative democracy rather than a direct one. So I hope I don't bore you to death but we're going to tackle the subject again. If any readers have political science majors or professors in the vicinity, please do not hesitate to force them to respond on this subject so that I too can hear the pros and cons of such a system. To keep you from falling asleep reading about what makes our country tick I'll try to throw a few of my trademark and sarcastically inappropriate zingers in the article to keep you reading.

The main issue and complaint I have with our current system revolves around the term representation. I think my half-baked brains are still coherent enough to understand the situation. In Montana the voters elected their senators and lone representative by a majority vote. Other states like California and New York do the same thing but get more representation because they have more people. Makes sense because each man and woman has the right to vote and be represented by that vote. Now let's use this overbearing and snipey presidential election to provide some context to my argument. Barack Bob Shiny Pants, Hillary Bill Clinton, and John "Flashback" McCain are currently spending millions of donated and not so donated funds obtained legally and probably illegally to convince you to vote for them so that they can lead our country after winning a majority of the vote. Whoops. First and foremost toss the popular vote out the window. When you cast your ballot the Constitution provided states the plenary power to have a certain apportioned number of electors (based on population) actually cast a vote for president. In other words 538 electors ultimately decide but pledge to cast their electoral vote for their district's popular ballot winner. Remember the 2000 election between Gore and Bush? Gore supposedly won the popular vote but lost in the electoral process. As an aside I argue Gore did not win the popular vote because his campaign successfully blocked the tally of votes from U.S. service persons overseas but I digress. Just focus on the issue of the popular vote.

Let us see about this whole majority thing. Let's say for argument Barack Obama wins the presidential election 51% to 49% based on electoral college results. That means like in 2000 the popular vote is within a razor thin margin of error. What if as Gore claimed in 2000 the loser won the popular vote but this time McCain really did without trying to cheat? Let's also say that after a recount and legal wrangling Obama officially defeats McCain on this infintismal margin, gets inaugurated, goes to Disneyland, and gets to do shaving cream commercials. (Yes Hillary would still be campaigning and only after Vietnamese shock treatment are Democrats able to pull her from the race, tell her she's lost, and institutionalize her in upstate New York.) What then does the term "majority" mean? Let's further assume the Democrats maintain control of both houses of Congress. I think you're starting to catch my drift. Now you have a President, a Speaker of the House, and Senate majority leader claiming a mandate to decide things for you because their party and associated ideology clearly possesses this now all important majority. In my hypothetical world what if Obama won the election popularly by a tally of 30,151, 360 to 30,151,359? Not only does the word majority become meaningless it simply doesn't apply at all anymore. It's like telling your stomach it would feel more full after consuming 10 pancakes rather than 9.999999 pancakes. The argument drifts into absurdity.

We'll now travel back to Congress assuming your senators and congresspersons won by the same thin margins in districts and claim a majority mandate even if by only a few popular votes. Now you have them on committees spending money on things you flat don't believe in because of this pain in the arse majority word. A majority is 80/20 or 90/10 not 49.9999/50.0001. At any rate the argument becomes a little redundant (in the dictionary under redundant it says "see redundant") but my demented philosophy still holds water; it is murky smelly water but water. One hundred senators and 435 congresspersons control the country and make decisions for you, spend your money, and promote the "mandated" ideology even if not representing the popular will of the people and certainly not by a fair representation of a majority. Legal? Yes. Fair? No. Basically in this current system 535 people plus a President control just about everything that affects you. Does it seem like someone piddled in your corn flakes when you see how Congress votes themselves pay raises with your money and receives some of the best health care and pension opportunities in the country? How does that equate to a free society? You can vote but when the whole system is based on a majority through actual control by a few is it tragically flawed? New York has a gazillion people stuffed on an island with a culture and mindset of its own. Because of the population on this small geographic plane they get tons more representation than small states like Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming combined. Look at how many diverse cultures lose in the representation race because of a lack of population. A culture encompassed in a few square miles trumps many cultures totaling millions of square miles. Folks, our current system is out of date and out of touch just like the rest of society is.

I really started thinking about this subject when the whole pork barrel spending and congressional earmarks issue raised its serpent-like head. Hillary Clinton can write an "earmark" into a piece of legislation that appropriates your tax dollars for a hippie museum in New York or a cigar factory in Bill's shed out back. You had no choice. An Alaskan senator can appropriate funds for a bridge to nowhere with your money. Guess what? You have no control over it. The President and Congress can agree to appropriate funds for state controlled programs making government bigger and more expensive with your money. You have no control over it. They base their moves on the right of a majority which we've thus debunked. The current electoral process makes your vote worth less if you live out west than it does back east. A small geographic area with the same cultural standards carries more weight than a much larger geographic area with more cultural idiosyncrasies. Remember what I said regardless of your ideas about what it is that makes a majority. In our country a FEW CONTROL ALL. Do I have a solution? Maybe.

In this modern era of instant communication through the internet and other telecommunications systems we could literally take back control of our government if we controlled everything with a direct vote. Take the United States and divide it into equal geographic grids. Tally every direct vote and help those (the elderly and infirm) to vote through secure firewalled systems and the popular vote and you, yes YOU now control the government again. No more earmarks or geographic subcultures controlling your world. Billions of dollars saved, bogus programs buried, and each vote means something now with your input instead of your honest desires being unfairly delegated to a representative that may or may not represent your philosophy and ideology.
In that case even enough moderates linked to a different political ideology other than yours may vote with you on a case by case basis. If you're like me I want more control of our money and the direction of the country. Tax dollars are meant for only a couple of things not so that government can become a monster that feeds off itself with your monetary support. A strong national defense, a sound infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, etc.) that enhance trade in a free market and capitalist society, and federal law enforcement to uphold the laws of the constitution. Spare us the billions in waste that go to secure constituencies in individual locales that further corrupts our current political process. A small but effective government that encourages your freedoms rather than one that takes to secure the future of its evil self. Think about it and let me know.

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