A pandemic brought direct democracy to Switzerland, which at the time was a representative democracy. The current pandemic could bring direct democracy to other representative democracies.
Some people are pushing for proportional representation, as an alternative to first-past-the-post, as an important improvement. Do not be fooled; proportional representation gives some people more voice but still zero power. Proportional representation is like giving a new toy to a kid with no shoes, it does not solve the real problem.
The key to more democracy is direct democracy, not proportional representation. Put your efforts into a direct democracy.
A representative democracy with proportional representation, or first-past-the-post, still leaves the politicians with more power than the people, it does not address the root problem; voters with little power.
In Switzerland they have a direct democracy with a proportional representation, direct democracy is much more important than representation. In a direct democracy, the people are the final decision-makers.
Proportional representation is interesting because allows more people to be heard in Parliament.
Proportional representation increases the ability of voters to be heard, but it does not increase the power or control of voters over the politicians. In proportional representation, we can say more voters have a voice in parliament, but do not have more power where it really counts; when it comes to making decisions.
Direct democracy is the real advance because, in it, voters have more power than the politicians. In direct democracy, the people are the final decision-makers.
Direct democracy is having many interesting effects on Swiss political life.
For example, in Switzerland, politicians have learned they can only pass laws the voters support, or that the voters will not oppose.
In view of that, the politicians realize it makes no sense to pass unpopular laws because the people will veto them.
To ensure the support of the majority of voters, for laws and other initiatives, the major Swiss parties, representing 70 to 80% of the voters, work together to find common ground. They negotiate until they reach the conclusion that most of the people will support the law or other decisions.
What this means is that in Switzerland there is no “loyal opposition”, they do not need it. They avoid the “us” vs. “them” fights we see in representative democracies.
The coalition government, the absence of the opposition, also eliminates among the Swiss the polarizations we see today in countries like the US or the UK, where half the population does not just disagree with the other half, they despise each other. It is totally irrational.
With less polarizations in the political parties, there is also less polarizations among the public, the media, etc.
Polarizations drive political parties and their voters towards bitter opposition and mutual disqualifications. Democracy can not work like that, it will die. Therefore, it is urgent to bring direct democracy.
Does it not surprise you that in Switzerland, the 5 major parties govern in coalition decade after decade?
Another interesting aspect of Swiss democracy in Switzerland is that in the coalition, the “right”, the “centre” and the left govern together.
For example, right now, in the Swiss executive the following parties are represented; the Swiss People’s Party (right wing party), the Social Democrats (the socialists), the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. As I said, they represent 70-80% of the voters; pretty representative, I think.
Imagine in the United States the Republicans and the Democrats governing together! or the Conservatives and Labour in the UK!
With direct democracy, in the US they would not have the vicious fights we see between the Republican Executive and the Democrat House, or vice versa; no bitter fights to appoint Supreme Court Judges either.
Direct democracy would tone down crazy polarizations. Such situations are not in the people; in the American people or any other.
Polarization happens because elections in representative democracies bring almost oligarch-like power to those who win. Because of that, they fight like hell to discredit, dehumanize even, the other party and its supporters.
It is an interesting coincidence that modern direct democracy came to Switzerland because of a pandemic, like the one we have now all over.
If one effect of the current pandemic is that the American People, and the people of other representative democracies, successfully push for direct democracy, it would a surprising benefit of the pandemic; we could consider its victims as fallen soldiers fighting for democracy.
Americans, British, French, Germans, Canadians, etc., should push for direct democracy right now.