An observer looking at the political system in America would gain insight into a fracturing system. One important observation is that there is enormous and growing discontent among the masses. Another is that inside the Beltway in Washington, DC, an entire industry has sprouted up around the institution of American politics; meanwhile, a significant number among the populace — let’s call them the voters — are unable to name the current vice president. These two data points taken together indicate a troubling narrative, and that is that people angered by “our current situation” are not aware of the people for whom they are voting. To some, this may indicate ignorance or ‘lower-classism.’ To others — particularly those that watch each election cycle as more liberties are stripped away — this indicates that there is a serious problem with the very nature of the concept of democracy.
The main argument given by any proponent of democracy is that it gives the people a voice through use of the ballot box. Taking that at face value, this implies that any vote cast for a particular candidate or ballot measure is a vote of full confidence in the candidate’s proposed policies or the ballot measure’s proposed action. This causes a problem among those that have not given enough thought to the purpose of voting; in many cases, it becomes a check box for who someone would rather have a beer with, or perhaps who seems more “presidential” out of the candidates. If you were to ask these people about their policy proposals — this is, at least we are told, the primary reason that candidates run — you would receive a response that would equate to “I need to look into the issues further.” No such action will take place
Ben Lerer is the CEO of Thrillist, a culture website for millennials that focuses on eating, drinking, and traveling. I follow him on Twitter mostly because I love his website’s obsession with delicious burgers across the country, including many with fried eggs on top. Last week, I responded to one of his tweets regarding the Republican National Convention and continued to engage him in what I tried to establish as a political conversation. Unfortunately, he opted for personality over policy proposals, specifically saying that he would vote for Clinton because of her “experience. Intelligence. Kindness.” To me, this is a slap in the face to those that encourage us to (or those that do) “get informed,” and really amounts to picking your favorite singer on The Voice.
Accepting that a majority of voters are not making what would be considered an informed decision, it is then even more important to focus on the actual structure of democracy. Joseph Stalin is typically credited with saying, “It’s not the people who vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes.” Election fraud is rampant each election year, but for those that are happy enough to know the names of both “their guy” as well as “the opposition,” the fraud goes unnoticed. Sometimes, it even gets down to the party level. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a politician from Florida in the House of Representatives, was the Democratic National Committee Chairman as of last week. Afterdocuments were leaked showing that there had been a deliberate effort by the Democratic Party to end the Sanders campaign in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton, Wasserman-Schultz announced she’d step down following the convention in Philadelphia. It wasn’t even the end of the weekend before the Clinton campaign announced that Wasserman-Schultz would instead have a new senior role in the campaign. Classic. While this is not exactly a case of “the people that count the votes,” it is most definitely a case of “the people that wield the power” having the ultimate control over an election, or in this case a nominating process.
Back to democracy. Upon the founding of the country — 1776, in case that avoids you a Google search — the signers of the Declaration of Independence (“the Founding Fathers”) were well-aware of the troubles with democracy, and thus proceeded to structure the American government as a republic. The argument follows that a democracy amounts to no more than mob rule, meaning 51% of the population can vote away the rights of 49% of the population. One such example could be that an older generation continues to disapprove of drug use, and thus votes for politicians that vote to continue thefailed war on drugs started by Richard Nixon in 1971. How has it failed? Ask the next 20-something millennial if he or she can find you some marijuana and report back. Back to the old folks — even though 51% of voters are the majority, this leaves 49% of voters upset that once more our freedoms are being taken away by “our” government through our fellow man. How does this scenario differ from a republic? Our republic in particular was founded with a Constitution, which included the Bill of Rights. The understanding was that the people would elect politicians to write legislation as needed to address different issues — at no point, however, could any new law infringe on those rights described in the Constitution. This interpretation has been abandoned by most politicians and even the American people. “It was written over 200 years ago — it has no relevance in today’s society.” Yikes.
One further example of the sham that is democracy was brought to the center stage in one of the 2012 Republican presidential campaign debates. This debate took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, and a question was asked about the candidates’ positions on storing nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada. After explaining that he had been part of asignificant minority in voting alongside the two congressmen from Nevada, then-Congressman Ron Paul responded, “what right [do] 49 states have to punish one state and say ‘we’re going to put our garbage in your state?’” Regardless of such an argument, the bill was passed and became law.
Democracy. Such a splendid form of government that the political class in Washington insists on making the world safe for democracy. Perhaps the best argument used in favor of democracy — which incidentally is a terrible argument — is that we cannot point to a better form of government in practicetoday. The sophisticated and the well-educated scoff at the idea of having a fundamental change in our form of government, much the same as the British scoffed at the idea of rebelling colonies in the late 18th century. What would happen if we were to return to a republic, ridding Washington of the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, and starting anew with principled statesmen sworn to defend our liberties? What about moving beyond that, by completely ridding society of government, leaving anarchy in its place? Living among independent, caring, and forward-looking people in the 21st century, is it not possible for us to govern ourselves as individuals?