We elect our representatives, that is great…, but once they are in, they do not have to listen to us, the ordinary voters until the next election. Legally they do not have to listen to any voters, not even to the voters who voted for them. The system however allows them to, legally, listen to the lobbies. Indirectly, the representative democracy system promotes the power of the lobbies.
The only motivator for the elected politicians to listen to ordinary voters is the fear of not getting re-elected.
This is a weak motivator for several reasons.
One is that the next election is normally several years away. In that period the politicians, in the executive and the legislative, do things at the beginning of their mandate that annoys the majority voters, even their own voters. They do that because they have several years before the next election to manipulate the voters.
We also see how, when election time comes, governments distribute all sorts of “goodies”. They also distribute promises in blatant attempts to manipulate voters.
In a representative democracy, the parties not in power do similar things; they try to manipulate voters with promises. If they gain power, regardless of their ideology, they will do exactly the same as the party that was in power; ignore the voters often. They will do whatever they think is right, or convenient, and hope the voters forget at election time.
Representative democracy still is far superior to any authoritarian or totalitarian regime. We are not interested in such regimes here; the people in those countries will have to overthrow them.
But, what sort of democracy is it, one in which the “will of the people” is often ignored or, even worse, when the elected government can do things contrary to the will of the people?
Representative democracy is “manipulative democracy”. No wonder that in representative democracies more and more people are losing trust in their governments.
The system they have in Switzerland is not perfect, but overcomes the key weakness of representative democracy.
In Switzerland, only 1% of the population, or even half of that in some situations, can decide that a decision by the executive, or a law approved by the legislature, must go to a national referendum, and they do that regularly. With the referendum, the people decide, not the executive of the legislature.
One of the strongest arguments for direct democracy is that it allows ordinary voters to stop decisions made by the executive and the legislative, but it is not the only one. Swiss ordinary voters do not have “remember and wait”, “wait and remember”, till the next election; they organize a referendum for the majority to decide.
Neither the Swiss executive, nor the legislature, can stop referendums. They can not ignore the results either, because the results are binding.
The Swiss constitution also keeps the judges out of the referendums. Swiss judges, even Supreme Court judges, can not overturn the results of popular referendums. The only area in which referendums in Switzerland are subject to judicial review is to determine if the referendum was carried out in a fair manner.
Swiss courts can declare a referendum invalid if, for example, they find voters did not receive adequate information before the vote. But they cannot overturn the results of a correctly executed referendum.
In other places, it is not like that.
In the US there are no referendums at the national level; this is very weak people’s power, but in California they do. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the results of popular referendums are overturned by the courts over there. This is weak people’s power too.
What happened to: “democracy: government by the people and for the people”, if the judges toss the will of the people out the window?
If the Ancient Greeks woke up, they would laugh, or become furious, once they saw how democracy has been twisted out of shape by representative democracy. Only the Swiss could look at the Greeks in the eye, but not forcefully either, because even Swiss direct democracy falls a bit short of Greek direct democracy.