Change or die! Representative democracy in the US and most of the World will die if it does not evolve into representative-direct democracy

Representative democracy in the US and everywhere else will perish if we do not renovate it with direct democracy.

Direct democracy does not mean we get rid of the politicians or the political parties. Direct democracy means the people decide whenever approximately 1% of voters agree that all voters should decide the issue in a referendum. This applies to laws, policies, changes to the constitution, taxation levels, budgets, treaties, etc.

Normally, the people let the elected representatives carry on as they do now. The difference with direct democracy is that we will have a mechanism for the people to decide if they support what the politicians want to do.

In a direct democracy, the elected representatives have to govern with a much sharper eye on public opinion.

In a representative democracy, the politicians monitor public opinion, but it is a sort of lazy glance. They do that because in a representative democracy they are only concerned about the effects their actions on the next election.

Their calculation does not always work, so we have the party in power losing the next election. This change is good, but no longer is good enough; the ones now in power will try to please the voters with other policies, but the strategy is the same: “how can we win the election by pleasing most voters at election time, or soon before”. Their concern is not, it can not be, the long-term good of the citizens, it is winning the next election.

Politicians play that game because the system of representative democracy forces them to. People often disparage the politicians as if they were people with character flaws. Most politicians are people like the rest of us but the system bends them out of shape.

Direct democracy does not “twist” the character of the politicians because the people decide the key issues. Direct democracy allows politicians to be better people because they have less decision-making power. This also means they do not have hordes of lobbyists pressuring them with their private interests. The lobbies know that in a direct democracy, politicians do not decide the key issues; taxes, budgets, the health system, the educational system, the size of the military, public works, hospitals, etc.

As soon as the voters become the decision makers on controversial issues, voters “grow up”; they soon learn they have to vote carefully.

Their behaviour becomes similar to that of homeowners, or car owners; they behave responsibly with what is theirs.

In a direct democracy, the politicians do not make grandiose promises either; “we will become the most powerful”, “we will have the best space program”, “everything will be free”, etc. They stop doing that because in a direct democracy the people can stop, and will stop, the politicians from doing foolish things. They do because in a direct democracy votes are responsible for the effects of their decisions.

Representative democracy is some ways is a delusion; politicians promise everything voters want, the voters believe them, get mad at the politicians when the “promised land” never happens, no matter who governs. It is time for voters to take control of the life of the nation, of their own lives, in their own hands.

The mechanism to have direct democracy, to exercise the will of the voters, is the popular referendum at the national level. If the national executive and legislative can decide but the voters can not force referendums on those decisions, particularly when they are controversial, the country does not have a direct democracy, even if there is democracy at the state and local levels.

In a direct-representative democracy the people call the referendums, not the government. In a direct-representative democracy and the results of popular referendums are also binding for the government, nobody can overturn them; not the Congress, not the Supreme Court. Popular referendums must meet both conditions, one is not enough.

One significant effect of direct democracy is on the lobbies; the lobbies are no longer so interested in influencing politicians. Lobbies now know the people are the final decision makers on any issue the people want to decide. Although a direct democracy has to take precautions with the role of lobbies, big business, billionaires, etc., in referendum campaigns. Otherwise we may end up with something similar to what happened with elections in the US; the big donors may end up controlling referendum campaigns.

Direct democracy will free politicians from the obligations to big money. This will be good for the politicians, for democracy, for the people and, over the long term, for the rich and big business too.

A country where the people see that the will of most voters prevails is a more stable country. The wealthy need stability more than anybody else because they have more to lose.

Direct democracy is good for all. How do we know it? Just look at Switzerland; with far fewer resources than the US but higher standard of living, less economic disparity, less violence, better education, better health care and much more political stability, less political polarization; no riots, no assaults to Congress, no hate of their history, no irrational “we are the greatest”, etc.

The Swiss system is so superior that 80% b of the Swiss have a positive opinion of their executive and legislative. No other country comes close. In the US, the figure is 30%; no democracy can survive that forever, and things in the US are not improving.

Americans need direct democracy, and the rest of us have to support them because “as America goes so democracy will go”. We have the new scary authoritarians capitalists at the gates now; 80 years after Uncle Adolf, it is deja vu all over again.

Victor Lopez

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