Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”  In spite of it’s potential for wrong-headedness and other shortcomings, there is an innate human tendency to want to have some say in how our lives and society are to be run.  If course, it would definitely be nice of those doing the voting were good at critical thinking.

In the US, our democracy has grown terribly dysfunctional – in many cases straying very far from the spirit & intent of our founders and the very concept of democracy.  It has been absurd to fixate on Russian tampering in our elections (especially given US history of meddling in elections around the world) while ignoring the compromised state of our own electoral process.

I suggest the following steps to restore it:

  • Electronic voting machines MUST produce a paper trail and be absolutely failsafe unhackable.  The fairest elections are those with paper ballots counted by hand with all parties participating.  Make this the benchmark against which voting machines are evaluated.
  • Undo the absurd and undemocratic practice of gerrymandering – drawing ridiculously complex shaped voting districts specifically to corral voters into groupings designed to manipulate election outcomes.  The voters are supposed to select politicians, NOT the other way around.
  • Restore voting rights to marginalized populations.  While the stuff of the Jim Crow era, suppressing the votes of minority or liberal populations continues on today and is on the rise following the 2020 elections.
  • Work toward the adoption of modern systems of democracy such as Proportional Representation and Instant Runoff Voting.  (See below)
  • Question the worthiness of the Electoral College which has twice in recent memory sent to the white house a person who DID NOT win the popular vote.  Why should the voters of conservative Wyoming have four times the voting power of the voters of liberal California?
  • Question the practice of having two US Senators per state regardless of a given state’s population.  In other words, why do densely populated and liberal New York and California have the same number of Senators as sparsely populated and conservative Nebraska and Idaho?
  • Get the mountains of money out of our democratic system in the most proven and straight forward way: Public Campaign Financing. Contrary to popular belief this will actually SAVE the taxpayers money as a US Senator who received $500,000 of federal campaign financing will be under no obligation to give $500,000,000 in subsidies and tax breaks to the special interests that will otherwise fund his/her campaign.  (See below)
  • Increase funding to National Public Television and Radio with the condition that all corporate underwriting be eliminated.  Consider a similarly funded National Public Print Media to further carry out the task of educating a public severely “dumbed down” by decades of corporate ownership of the major media.  It is vitally important that those walking into voting booths are accurately informed and good at critical thinking.
  • Restore the Fairness Doctrine for a reasonably fair and balanced news media.
  • As made clear in the film, The Social Dilemma, social media giants like Facebook must somehow be made to stop engaging in practices that further polarize and tribalize our already fractured society.

Proportional Representation

Under our current system in the US, 51 percent of the voters can have their candidate win and represent them while 49 percent of the voters get zero representation.  Under the systems of proportional representation found in many other advanced countries, if the Green Party (for example) gets 15 percent of the vote, it will win 15 percent of the seats in the house or parliament.   While this is not a majority, the Green Party can build coalitions with other parties to have a meaningful say in how things are run.   Proportional Representation is inherently more fair and functional than the system the US has.

Instant Runoff Voting (Preference Voting or Ranked Choice Voting)

Under the current election system in the US, people are often told they must vote for “the lesser of two evils”.  Voting for the candidate who we really like is derided as “throwing your vote away”.  The elections of both George W. Bush and Donald Trump can be seen as resulting from this dysfunctional system.

Under Instant Runoff voting, people rank the candidates in order of preference.  As your number one choice doesn’t get sufficient votes, your vote then ‘drops down’ to count for your second choice and so on….  For example, in 2016, someone might have voted:

#1 Jill Stein
#2 Gary Johnson
#3 Hillary Clinton

All the people who didn’t want Donald Trump as president would have been free to vote for their desired candidate without worrying that they were throwing their vote away and causing the bad guy to get elected.  Thus, people would have been much freer to follow their hearts in voting so that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson would have had a much more realistic shot at winning the presidency.

Buckets of Money in Politics

If you found out that your US Senator spent half of his time in office fishing, you would be outraged – viewing that as an inexcusable waste of time.  As it turns out, a US Senator will indeed spend half of his/her time fishing for money specifically to get re-elected.  A lot of US Senators have a daily routine of calling up major donors – shaking them down for money and listening attentively to their needs and desires.  Politicians will state with a straight face that the campaign contributions that they receive don’t influence their decisions.  That is utter nonsense!  The wealthy and corporations are not going to pour untold millions into politician’s coffers if they’re not getting something in return.  Indeed, a politician who spends decades swimming like a fish in a vast ocean of money can’t even know how that experience has influenced his/her values and world view.  For an exploration of the psychology of this phenomenon, please see the section on Human Consciousness.