First of all let me make one think perfectly clear; while representative democracy is no real democracy, it is far superior to any other non-democratic regime.
It is far superior to regimes like one-party rule, rule by one single person (“illuminated” or not by a god), rule by aristocrats, rule by a religion (no matter which one), rule by absolute kings or absolute royal families, etc.
Representative “democracy”, while it is not real democracy, allows people a degree of political, social, religious, scientific freedom and overall dignity to the lives of humans, in both, their personal and professional lives that is light-years ahead of what each and everyone of those other regimes offer, no matter how much any such regime claims to have the final “scientific” “truth” to achieve human happiness, any such regimes claim to be led by a “special leader” “illuminated” or not by a god, or by some special book delivered from a god, etc.
But Representative “democracy” falls short in several key areas.
While the presence of political parties is far superior to having just one party, or no party, it has shortcomings that make real democracy impossible.
First of all, in a representative democracy, the people do not govern because they do not have the power to directly decide issues because that power lies with the politicians and the judges of the highest court of the land.
If the people have the power to elect, but do not have the power to decide issues, laws, policies, treaties and the contents of the constitution, the such society is not a democracy because the people do not govern at all; democracy means “government by the people”, it does not mean “government by those elected by the people”, even if the majority of the people elected them.
But political parties also present an additional problem that stunts the ability of voters to think with an open mind, which is necessary for rational thought.
This is what happens; political parties, by their very nature, claim to have core idea that makes them uniquely capable to address the issues of society.
Parties based on a religious idea claim to have the “rights answer, the answers society needs because the religion that inspires them claims to have the “answers”; how can it be otherwise if the party’s outlook on all issues is based on the “truth” inspired by a divine intelligence.
But it is precisely such claim to possess the”truth” that makes it impossible to apply reason to the issues; how can reason be applied if we start with the idea that predetermined the answer?
It is as an anti-religious person tries to rationally understand someone who believes in a god. To rationally analyze the belief of a believer, one can not be anti religious, one must apply reason, without prejudices, to the beliefs of the believers.
So, political parties prevent or seriously limit the ability of people to apply free reasoning to the issues.
To illustrate the problem, let me give you one example.
Let us look at the issue of universal health care.
The political parties on the “Right” are likely to oppose universal health care because in their minds, universal health care means taxpayer funded, they do not want any of that. In their minds, people are free to run their lives as they want, and taxpayers should not have to pay for the health care of people irresponsible, unable to have a job that will provide health insurance, or unable to buy health insurance themselves.
On the opposite corner we have the parties on the “Left” who believe health care must be universal and paid by the state, by the taxpayers.
Because of such positioning, determined by their political beliefs, which in many ways are as dogmatic as “this is the Truth religions, it is very difficult, perhaps impossible for such parties to look for another solution, for example one in which there is universal health care but provided by private organisations who obtain the necessary resources from the users able to pay the health insurance premiums, and by the government who subsidises or pays the premiums of those citizens who lack the income to pay the premiums. The system can make health coverage mandatory and universal.
In a way you could say such system is social-capitalist health care that parties on the Right and the Left would not support because, for different reasons, contradicts their beliefs about how health care should be.
In a direct democracy, the power of the citizens is at the expense of the power of the parties. Most citizens are not interested in the ideology, they are interested in solving problems.
Most citizens believe all citizens should have good health care, the the best, most effective health care the country can afford. They are not interested in that it be done according to this or that political belief.
This is precisely the system of universal health they have in Switzerland; the best and universal health care system in the World. The Swiss have more access to health care and better health care.
It is not by chance that the only direct democracy the World has, has developed such system.
One of the positive effects of direct democracy is that diminishes the politization and polarization of citizens. In a direct democracy, the citizens have to decide real issues, this forces voters to do two things; look at the facts and not pay much attention to the efforts parties might have of politicizing every issue.
This also has had the effect of depololiticising the parties. To such and extent direct democracy has done so that in Switzerland, the 4-5 major parties, who represent 70 to 85% of voters, govern together always.
If you want to have less polarization and less politisation, and better public decisions, you should inform yourself about Swiss direct or, more properly, semi-direct democracy. I am sure it will change your mind about what democracy should be like in your country; it certainly changed mine; that is why I decided to start this website.