HomeCivilizationSix Things America Must Do to Restore Democracy


Six Things America Must Do to Restore Democracy — 21 Comments

  1. Excellent piece! Might I have your permission to share it (with attribution, of course) with my own mailing list of 14 personal friends? I would rather see public financing of elections than disclosure of unlimited funds. Money can keep repeating misinformation until it acquires its own “truthinesss.”

    On his Sunday a.m. show. Chris Hayes’ panel talked about fact checking and raised questions about their accuracy. Rachel Maddow has also given some examples of questionable work on their part. Your suggestion of classes in critical thinking would certainly move is in the direction of more independent thought.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  2. These are all important to democracy. Foremost to me is that we the people need to take our voice back from the big and multinational corporations. I support amending our constitution; the amendment that Move to Amend proposes (https://movetoamend.org/democracy-amendments.) Until then we don’t have a democracy, except perhaps at the local level and that may not last long.

  3. Another issue, perhaps less systemic but very worrisome, is “black box” voting machines that provide no way to verify the vote. Some of those have been replaced since 2008, but by no means all.

    From a recent report by http://countingvotes.org, which says it is a collaboration between Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause, and the Rutgers School of Law:

    “Sixteen states use paperless machines in some or all counties, prompting an “inadequate” grade. In other words, these machines produce no independent record of the vote cast, which is necessary for recounts or audits. These states are: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.”

  4. Excellent piece! The biggest challenge of all, and one I don’t have an answer to, is to figure out how to implement any one of these six things, given that those who hold the power now (whoever they may be) will actively oppose any changes that would diminish their hold on power.

  5. Clearly and succinctly presented; encourages productive discussion. And hey, I agree with a whole lot of it! For those who hold their political beliefs experimentally, you’ve got a year’s worth of Sunday dinners here.

    Haven’t studied campaign financing closely, but you have to start somewhere. I think first you have to establish the power and right to act, and effectively enforce it. Politically that requires a widely supported proposition. But it’s past time we start warming the 1% up to the new 99. What ever happened to equal time? How about equal mind time? What have we got left to work with?

  6. In some states, balloting has gone entirely to postal balloting (including Washington, where I live). This has been shown to increase voting rates significantly. Do you see it as a useful change, especially if it were combined with ranked-choice voting?

      • You’d have to define “verifiable” here. Yes, it’s possible to verify that every ballot received is properly counted. It’s slightly more difficult to verify that every ballot has been received (but not much — delivery verification is a Solved Problem for the USPS). Making the external envelopes postage paid with delivery confirmation would remove most objections to this approach I can see. No verification effort can stand up against a serious, intelligent fraud effort from the people managing the counting, however.

  7. I submit that another important thing to do would be to repeal the Citizens United decision; this is entirely independent of your point #4. Corporations are not people, money is not speech, and conflating them is going to be nothing but a source of trouble for America in many regards, not just campaign spending.

    • Pass a constitutional amendment that declares that only human beings have the right of free speach, and define a human as “such-and-such type of genome, plus a beating heart and functing brain.” Let the corporations weasel their way around THAT one.

  8. I love it, David! I am particularly excited that you have emphasized critical thinking as the most important priority. I have thought, in recent years, that we should restore LOGIC in the curriculum for students, but many of the current voting bloc of adults is also sadly missing this skill. Thanks for posting this.

  9. The best ideas you presented are repeal of the ‘Citizens United’ ruling by the U.S. ‘Supreme’ Court, full disclosure of all political contributions and their sources regardless of amount, ranked choice voting coupled with elimination of the electoral college and protection of the right to vote.

    Of all these, protecting the right to vote should be the highest priority and needs to be made as iron clad as possible given the penchant for zealots, demagogues, dictators and others of fascist persuasion to use their political power to create echo chambers by any means possible, most often beginning with destruction of trade unions through which working people can find a voice which speaks to power, followed by seizure of voting rights after suitably demonizing anyone who disagrees with them.

    Another tenet of this proposal should be vigorous monitoring of the violation of the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state. Already the mainstream of the republican party brazenly distorts religious belief / conviction for political gain with no consequence to them for doing so. The aim of Ralph Reed and other lying, cynical hypocrites of his ilk have a sectarian U.S. government as their goal and care nothing at all about freedom and democracy for all of the people in this country their religious or non-religious beliefs notwithstanding. For anyone who may have forgotten, Ralph Reed is the darling of the christian right who aided and abetted Jack Abramoff in his cynical rip off of Native Americans by, among other things, enlisting the ‘faithful’ in a scheme to prevent other Native Americans from establishing gambling casinos to compete with his Abramoff’s clients’ casinos. In so doing, darling Ralph was effectively supporting gambling by deceiving his mindless followers who were(are) opposed to gambling. Darling Ralph subsequently fell from grace but he’s back with his Faith and ‘Freedom’ Coalition and promising to ‘deliver’ the vote of some 15,000,000 christians for the republicans in the November, 2012 presidential election.

    There also needs to be action taken against unelected ‘officials’ such as Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist who are doing their best to subvert democracy through their irresponsible actions and abuse of the privelege of free speech.

    Norquist for one is especially deserving of scrutiny for soliciting the pledge of ‘no taxes’ from republicans elected to public office. Since taxes are needed to run the government of all the people and provide them protection and security, exacting such a pledge is at minimum an act of obstruction if not a blatant attempt to undermine and destroy the U.S. government and in so doing, destroying the protection and security of our citizens guaranteed by our government. Norquist, cute little boy that he is has been quoted as saying,’…I don’t want to destroy the U.S. government, I just want to make it small enough so I can drown it in my bathtub..’. And, by the way, Grover Norquist also aided and abetted Jack Abramoff in his influence peddling scams before his fall from ‘grace’. This type of activity which, given the arrogance of Norquist and others of his ilk continues and should fall under scrutiny for what it is, racketeering.

    Limbaugh constantly incites the ‘faithful’ with factually inaccurate statements, insults, personal attacks and blatant lies which corrode and corrupt civil discourse, the political process and impedes the business of our government. Not to mention that he’s the effective straw boss of many elected republican officials who claim not to be influenced by ‘outside interests’ all the while insisting that they are brave ‘patriots’ unshakably committed to freedom and the American ‘dream’. Not satisfied with constantly spewing his potpourri of verbal garbage he has also stated that ‘…he hoped President Obama failed as president…’, yet another example of the mean, venal spirit of the right wing rooted in the idea that democracy is only for one point of view, theirs(his) and the talents, hopes, dreams and contributions of the rest of this country are of no use or consequence.

  10. Couple of thoughts – instant runoff voting is not going to be much of an equalizer without an infusion of cash. I would levy a tax on all campaign funds and PAC money raised by the Democrats and Republicans for use by third party candidates. Democracy has clearly been subverted and it has been done by the current two party process and their partners in industry. Never in my life time has the government been so eager to allow it citizens to fight unnecessary wars, keep their personal finances at risk so that the financial services industry can make money, and pay what is essentially another tax so that health care companies are assured of profits.

    Critical thinking won’t make a difference if these two parties continue to dictate policies that favor businesses over citizens. There are very few people in either party who seem to be critical thinkers.

  11. A reader named Rosemary Gunn emailed me with the following:

    There are a couple of additions I would like to suggest, in hopes that at some point you will make a new list:

    – non-partisan redistricting (I believe the fact that Republicans were in power in many states at the time of the last census, and thus able to re-draw district lines, will affect votes for many, many years to come; had Democrats been in office, they would have done the same)

    – open primaries (I mean the sort California is trying, with only one primary, after which the two top vote-getters go on to the election round, regardless of their parties)

    Wikipedia has a general article that I found useful when I was trying to figure out whether to call it an open primary or something else – though I’m still not sure. California seems to be the only state with the variant I was talking about; it was adopted under a ballot proposition called the “Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_primary

    I got interested because of articles in the NY Times, e.g.

    There it is called a “top-two primary system.” Because the Times charges if you want to read more than 10 articles per month, I’ve copied that article at the end of this message, without photos and links.

    Their earlier piece, at the time the proposition passed – while Schwarzenegger was still governor – includes a few pro and con arguments. See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/us/politics/10prop.html

  12. We don’t have many years to accomplish reform. The approval rate of all elected officials combined with pure cynicism of government and the shocking following a Grover Norquest has, can only lear to gridlock with no critical thinking allowed.

  13. VoteSmart is an excellent source of accurate information about candidates and legislation. The data bank is created jointly by Rs and Ds. It would have been great if more people had used it. What we found in our surveys in rural southern and midwestern states was that rural voters tended to get info from Facebook friends, generally those who live within 10 miles. They had few contacts outside their town or county.They did not search VoteSmart site. In cities, people still tended to share post-election info with FB friends, retweeting or snap chat.