In your representative “democracy”, you do not define the issues, let alone decide them, because your “democracy” is not such thing.
In representative democracies, the economic lobbies, the political lobbies, the media owned by a few (with a political and economic ax to grind), and the social lobbies, define the issues.
Such groups may be at odds with each other but they do not represent the interests of the majority of ordinary citizens because they have in mind their own interests, not the interests of the majority. Of course, they know that with “clever” argumentation and manipulation, and massive repetition, they can fool many voters into believing they defend the interests of ordinary people.
The hard truth is that none of such groups can defend the interests of ordinary people, they can not because they have in mind their particular interests, not the interests of the majority.
Big media, big business, big farm, big finance, big manufacturing, big unions, big political parties, the “opinion makers”, etc., are interested in what concerns them, not what concerns you. But they are not stupid, they know that with clever strategies, clever words and repetition, they can persuade many voters, at least for years, even decades, that the country is a real democracy.
The lobbyists who represent the interests of such groups also know they can pressure (or is it intimidate?) politicians to do what the lobbyists want.
These weak spots of representative democracy deprive most voters of control of their democracy. It does not matter if the ordinary citizen is a progressive or a conservative, he or she never gets to decide what the issues are and, much less to decide the issues.
The end result is that as time passes, more and more citizens feel the elected politicians do not represent them, even when “their” “progressive” or “their” “conservative” party wins the election and governs.
The problem is compounded because to be elected, the politicians and their parties need lots of money to compete in elections. Ordinary voters can not donate to political campaigns, of candidates or parties, enough money to make other donations, or the influence of biased media, superfluous and unimportant.
In fact it is the other way around, the contributions of the lobbyists make the contributions of ordinary people irrelevant.
Consider also that many of those lobbyists also have the power to mobilize many people who work in their business, who belong to professional associations, unions, etc. This is also a factor that pressures politicians before, and also after getting elected, if they aspire to re-election, to yield in whole or in part to the pressure of lobbies.
If, to the above, you add that ordinary people have not the means to make the population aware and to educate the population, on other issues, you have a situation in which the majority of citizens, on the left, right and center, can not decide which are the issues, much less decide them.
This brings us to the closure of the vicious circle of representative “democracy”; because ordinary citizens do not have the means to rise and spread the awareness of issues, the voters can not vote motivated by the issues that affect the majority. Do not forget also that big written media, big radio, big TV and big Internet also have the power to silence issues, besides the power to raise the ones that interest them.
So, ordinary citizens do not decide what the issues are and can not vote on the issues; the cycle repeats at election time and between elections.
Representative “democracy” has another huge flaw; the elected politicians decide all issues, the people can not vote on issues to decide the issues.
In a direct democracy things are very different. It is very simple; in a direct democracy if approximately 0.5% to 1% of the population put their names and decide “this is an issue voters should decide”, then a referendum takes place and the voters decide, not the politicians. Of course, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary have to accept and execute the result of the referendum.
The 0.5% to 1% is a sound number because it ensures a reasonable minority of ordinary citizens back the issue. It also ensures that the number of signatures is low enough so that collecting them is feasible for a small group of ordinary citizens, a small pro-something or anti-something group, even a minuscule union, ecologist group, religious group, a minor political party with no representation in the local council, the regional, provincial, state or national parliament have, all of them have, the means to raise an issue and have ordinary voters decide the issue.
By giving the people this power, the power of lobbies, of the large parties, of opinion makers (or is it manipulátors?), of big media, etc., is kept in check.
This is what happens in a direct democracy; once the people collected the required signatures, the government has to hold a referendum and the government has to send to all potential voters an information package presenting the arguments of those who collected the signatures and also of those against them. Both sides are given equal prominence.
When this happens, the big lobbies, big media, big parties, etc., know they have to acknowledge this is the issue, that the people decide what the issues are, not them.
Furthermore, the lobbies also know ordinary voters decide the issues and, more importantly, ordinary people know they are in control; not the lobbies not the political parties.
In a direct democracy, ordinary citizens can stop existing laws or laws parliaments or councils draft, they can stop treaties, they can change the constitution of the country or the by-laws of their town, the health care system, the laws on marriage, the level or taxation…, anything.
When the people are in control, the people are made responsible of the effects of their votes and, as most people always do, when they bear the responsibility they behave responsibly.
In a direct democracy there is not complaining about the politicians or the lobbies, becapse the people have the power to keep them in check.
Direct democracy is the real check and balance democracy needs, not the fake checks and balances among the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. They are fake because they leave the people out; in reprerentative democracies, the people can not check and balance any of the three powers, or the lobbies or big media.
Direct democracy also makes democracy and society more stable. That is why Switzerland is the most stable country in the World, the one with the least polarisation also becaure it is the political parties pursuing power, and the media supporting them, who promote polarisation, in part to distract the people from the issues that affect them, but that the lobbies and politicians want to silence.
If you want real democracy you should inform yourself about direct democracy. I have no doubt you will support it.