Monday, October 15, 2018

3 Reasons that our Democracy is Failing

By Glenn Geher

Look, our democracy is broken right now. I remain convinced, even through these trying times, that democracy, writ large, remains the single-best form of governance for large human groups. But our current system is, simply, broken right now.

Many people, including myself, have been working hard to elect Democratic and Progressive officials throughout the land as a way to fix things. I understand why. But I also, after having been so close to issues of elections at all kinds of levels for so long, have become convinced that "turning our nation blue" is a Band Aid solution. It doesn't get to the core of the problem. In fact, not by a long shot.

After talking with hundreds of concerned citizens from all kinds of backgrounds over the past several years - and after running my own campaign for office - and playing a central role in the Hudson Valley Progressive movement, I have come to see the following three issues as foundational issues that, ultimately, need to be completely overhauled for us to be able to restore our democracy.

1. Campaign Finance Reform is Foundational

The amount of money poured into elections in this nation is nuts. Just nuts. Billions of dollars a year. To be able to run for congress, for instance, you have to (a) be able to take off at least a full year from whatever your job is (and, really, how many of us can do that?!?) and (b) raise close to three million dollars (and really, how many of us can do that!?!?!?!?!?). And that is just to have a shot at it. And that is just Congress. When all is said and done our current campaign finance system is structured so as to:
A. Make it so that only a small slice of Americans can really afford to run for high-level office.
B. Make it so that money speaks volumes in American politics - and any and all elected officials end up being beholden (to various degrees) to all kinds of individuals, organizations, and special interests.

Further, imagine if all of that money when to health care and education? Seriously.

If we really want to restore democracy and give every citizen equal voice, campaign finance reform must be a top-priority issue.

2. The Electoral College Should be Abolished

The electoral college is based on an antiquated America. These days, it gives an extremely disproportionate amount of power to states with very few people in them. The bottom line here is that a small group of American voters wield a disproportionately large influence on who all is running things in Washington, DC. This very idea of a small group having disproportionate influence is the antithesis of Democracy - and we all know it.

3. We Should Change the System so that Gerrymandering is Made Impossible.

Gerrymandering is a process whereby some legislative body works to draw up election-related district lines - a process that is done periodically, ostensibly based on changes in population. Elected officials famously use this process to draw lines that ultimately tip elections toward the party that is predominant in the legislative body that holds most power during the process. Districts are often drawn up in highly contorted ways so as to keep certain high-population areas in districts that need them (for the purposes of winning elections), for instance.

These days, we have math, science, and computers. Coming up with systems for drawing up district lines based on computer-generated algorithms would not really be that difficult to do. To my mind, we should enact laws to do exactly this.

Bottom Line

The three suggestions here are completely non-partisan. They are not about making the country "blue again." They are about the restoring of democracy in a nation that has a fully broken system.

One problem with making the changes suggested above is that, frankly, none of these issues is very exciting. A candidate whose main issue is to stop gerrymandering is unlikely to get many cheers at a rally compared with one whose main issue is to restore human rights, for instance.

But when you look at our system from a bird's eye view, it becomes clear that addressing the foundational issues that are demarcated here is really a primary way to effect real change when it comes to the issues that we actually care about (such as restoring human rights).

If we want to live in a nation where anyone can rise to a high-level elected office - and everyone has an equal voice when it comes to influencing our future, we better look carefully at the foundational aspects of the problem. And, as uninteresting as these issues may seem, we better start electing officials who are bent on addressing these problems that sit at the core of why and how our democracy is broken.
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Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity.