Democracy at the Crossroads

There are five major threats to the planet's sustainability and humanity's survivability:

  1. Extreme climate disruption.
  2. Global spread of violent asymmetric conflicts that are trapping innocent civilians in their crossfire.
  3. The tendency of governments, heads of state, political parties, politicians and special interests to create problems, crises and conflicts at domestic and transnational levels that they are more likely to escalate than resolve.
  4. The lack of effective popularly controlled consensus building and conflict resolution mechanisms.
  5. The inability of ordinary people to control their governments because of "democracy deficits" and obstacles that prevent voters from controlling the electoral and legislative processes that determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

Needless to say, governing institutions at domestic and transnational levels that do not govern in the public interest and lack effective mechanisms for building consensus and resolving conflicts are unlikely to be able to solve life threatening problems such as climate disruption and armed conflicts. Since disempowered electorates lack the political influence they need to remove the "democracy deficits" and obstacles that are deeply embedded in these institutions, the most promising near-term solution is to circumvent them technologically.

Technological Re-Invention of Democracy

The first three of the five threats can be overcome by empowering voters to overcome the fourth and fifth threats with advanced web technology. Once voters are provided effective online consensus building and conflict resolution mechanisms, and are able to control elections and legislation, they can elect lawmakers of their choice to stop conflicts, climate disruption and other threats to their lives and well-being.

Voters' inability to fully control their governments has multiple causes. One major cause is the tendency of governing institutions -- such as political parties, politicians and special interests, in combination with biased media -- to create and perpetuate problems, crises and conflicts instead of resolve them. Power and influence are divided among hostile and uncompromising parties, politicians and special interests, which often leads to legislative stalemates and governmental paralysis. Voters lack consensus building and conflict resolution mechanisms for preventing and overcoming these divisions and political conflicts.

Components of this counterproductive dynamic include the following:
  • In far too many instances, elections are pawns in contrived partisan conflicts. These conflicts are designed to inflame voters' passions, confuse voters, and distort their perceptions so that they do not know what parties' and candidates' actual legislative priorities are, and what legislative actions they are likely to take once in office.
  • Electoral practices of political parties and politicians deny voters the opportunity to articulate their priorities in any systematic way, or join forces independently of parties and self-nominated candidates so that voters can nominate and elect candidates of their choice to legislatively enact their priorities.
  • Electoral processes legitimize the self-nomination, election and tenure in office of elected officials who are virtually unaccountable to the voters they claim to represent. They use the votes they receive -- often from a minority of eligible and registered voters -- to legitimize the laws they adopt, finance and enforce with the power of the state.

The result of this disconnect is growing voter disapproval of unaccountable lawmakers and the laws they enact or fail to enact. Increasing tensions, protests and confrontations -- legal and extra-legal -- are occurring between electorates and governments. Various forms of opposition are becoming so widespread that governments are limiting the exercise of basic civil, political and human rights, and even using force to quell popular discontent. These limitations are being imposed in what are considered well established democracies, as well as governments transitioning toward democratic forms of government.

As a result of these increasing limitations, the number of fully functioning democracies is decreasing. According to then 2015 Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit,
  • The number of 'full democracies' is low, at only 20 countries, comprising only 8.9% of the world population.
  • 59 countries are rated as 'flawed democracies', comprising 39.5% of the world population.
  • Of the remaining 88 countries . . . 51 are 'authoritarian', comprising 34.1% of the world population; and 37 are considered to be 'hybrid regimes', comprising 17.5% of the world population.

The precarious state of democracy worldwide fuels not only domestic conflicts but transnational conflicts. Wealth and income inequalities spawned by undemocratic, inegalitarian societies can reach levels deemed unacceptable by substantial segments of the population, spurring domestic and transnational anti-government movements. In turn, popular unrest often leads unpopular leaders to contrive internal and external conflicts in order to rally popular support to the governments they lead.

When this conflict-producing pattern combines with the geopolitical ambitions of aggressive nation-states, multi-national conflagrations such as those occurring in the Middle East and North Africa can occur. The combination is now trapping innocent civilians around the world in the crossfires of globally spreading asymmetrical conflicts between nation-states and paramilitary groups confronting each other. A devastating consequence is millions of refugees fleeing conflicted regions and seeking asylum in Western countries -- creating yet another source of internal and external tensions and conflicts.

(Note: The long-term consequences and costs of the adversity faced by populations trapped in such conflicts are inestimable. The large majority of these afflicted populations are located in the developing world where poverty is widespread. Overall, of the estimated 2 - 3 billion people living in poverty, a significant portion live in war-torn regions where the most vulnerable -- women and children -- experience the long-lasting effects of serial traumas and post-traumatic stress disorders -- especially child soldiers trained to kill at an early age and young suicide bombers. The destabilizing daily internal and cross-border movements of countless numbers of people displaced not only by these conflicts, but also by extreme weather, are unlikely to cease in the foreseeable future.)

The contemporary "democracy deficits" that are sparking conflicts within and among countries are creating contagious political instability and electoral backlashes. For example, popular opposition is on the rise against parties and lawmakers that support financial and economic globalization -- and trade policies that lead to job loss, stagnant wages, widespread unemployment, and downward social mobility. These backlashes often go hand-in-hand with unexpected electoral outcomes, such as the UK's Brexit vote, the rise of right wing movements, and insurgent electoral candidacies challenging establishment parties, candidates and incumbents.

While many non-profit and for-profit initiatives are seeking to overcome these "democracy deficits" and their consequences, the global social network for voters that Re-Invent Democracy International is building around its Interactive Voter Choice System technology is among the most promising. For it empowers voters to institute democratically-controlled elections and legislation in the near-term, directed from the "bottom up" by the people that governments must serve, rather than from the "top down" by democratically unaccountable political parties and politicians.

The network enables voters to circumvent the following impediments to the exercise of their sovereignty, many of which have been introduced in the U.S. in particular:
  • Restrictive and unfair voting laws that suppress votes and skew election results.
  • Election laws that prevent third parties from taking root to oppose established parties.
  • Corruptible electronic voting technology that can be remotely "hacked" to skew voting tallies and election results.
  • Biased media that confuse voters and misrepresent actual facts.
  • Virtually unrestricted campaign financing by financial interests that monopolize information channels with paid political advertisements.
  • "Debate" practices that prevent candidates who are opposing major party candidates from actively and visibly participating in mass-media publicized debates and discourse.
  • Undemocratic party practices that prevent voters from defining and voting on their own legislative platforms, or those of the party and their self-nominated candidates.
  • Rigged elections in which voters are compelled to choose among self-nominated candidates they disdain, who re running on platforms over which voters have virtually no control.
  • Undue political influence of financial institutions, and wealthy corporate and private interests, that exacerbate wealth and income inequalities, and limit wealth and income generation by the rest of the population.

Systemic consequences of these impediments are reflected in research indicating that U.S. voters, for example, have less influence over legislation than organized special interests. (See Hacker, J. and Pierson, P. (2010), Winner Take All Politics).

To the extent this influence is pervasive, the primary determinants of legislative outcomes are less likely to be citizens' priorities than those of special interests that finance lawmakers' electoral campaigns. That these outcomes neglect the needs and wants of ordinary people can be seen in systemic underfunding of such vital sectors as health and human services, as well as disaster prevention, relief and recovery, etc.

Impact of the Re-Invention

The global social network for voters empowers electorates to overcome these impediments and their systemic consequences. Its patented agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building tools enable voters to control of elections and legislation by building voter-controlled online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions (BPCs) around common legislative agendas to elect lawmakers of their choice.

BPCs blend direct democracy with representative democracy by using their legislative agendas to direct the legislative actions of the representatives they elect, including using the network's voting utility to vote on referenda, initiatives and recall votes. They can publish the results and use them to pressure their representatives to adhere to their agendas.

These voter-controlled, online political organizations differ from traditional blocs, parties and coalitions that voters do not control because they interconnect voters across ideological and partisan lines to forge collective consensus around common transpartisan legislative agendas.

Unlike traditional BPCs that divide voters ideologically, the members of these new organizations will be motivated to unite voters around transpartisan agendas in order to create transpartisan electoral bases large enough to elect representatives of their choice to enact their agendas. BPCs that fail to reach out to voters across the ideological and political spectrum are unlikely to grow large enough to win elections.

BPCS will develop unprecedented "collective intelligence" and collective decision-making capabilities by bringing large numbers of well-informed voters into all stages of legislative processes, to supplement and surpass the small numbers of often ill-informed, biased and conflict-producing legislators who make decisions for entire electorates.

They will be the engines for the development of the ever increasing capacity of the world's electorates as a whole to interconnect to each other to collectively devise solutions to present and future threats to the planet's sustainability and humanity's survivability -- and elect representatives to enact them.

In addition to these key attributes, BPCs have the following capabilities:
  • They can operate domestically, within nation-states, as well as transnationally, across borders. A single BPC can devise solutions to problems, crises and conflicts anywhere, at any level. Members of transnational BPCs can create domestic BPCs in order to mobilize mainstream voters in specific countries to elect lawmakers to enact transnational BPC agendas, addressing any domestic, transnational and global problems, crises and conflicts they wish.
  • BPCs can interconnect mainstream voters with non-voters within single countries across ideological and partisan lines, as well as with displaced persons, refugees, and migrants residing inside and outside their borders. They can exchange views and build consensus around collectively set agendas for enacting legislation within a specific nation-state addressing issues of their choice.
  • They can devise and enact solutions to threats to their welfare that they feel have been ignored or inappropriately addressed by incumbent lawmakers, such as the devastating effects of disruptive climate change, the global spread of asymmetric warfare between nation-state and non-state actors, global pandemics, etc.
  • Consensus-building BPCs can engage in internal institution building by changing laws, regulations and rules affecting electoral processes that determine who can run for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. They can direct the representatives they elect to overturn restrictive and unfair voting laws and enact legislation that prevents vote rigging and vote suppression
  • BPC members can hold lawmakers accountable at the polls by defeating them if think they have failed to exert their best efforts to enact BPC agendas. They can also remove corrupt lawmakers and uses their BPCs to supplant political parties corrupted by special interests.
  • BPCs can diminish the influence of biased mass media by compiling, sharing, evaluating and interpreting alternative sources of information, and using their own curated information to circumvent political disinformation designed to confuse voters and interfere with their understanding of political issues and grasp of the full range of possible legislative options and configurations that best serve their interests.

Note: Electoral candidates, incumbent lawmakers and traditional BPCs that wish to build a winning base of popular electoral support, in which they collaborate with present and future supporters to set and enact common legislative agendas, can also use the Company's global social network for voters. They can do so individually and independently, or collaborate through their own political organizations with voter-controlled BPCs through coalitions they conjointly agree to create and manage.

Similarly, civil society organizations, issue groups, associations, and unions, for example, can also use the network to build BPCs independently and/or collaboratively. By building large transpartisan electoral bases, all democracy stakeholders using the network can elect representatives of their choice without campaign financing by special interests that later dictate representatives' legislative actions after they are elected. Lawmakers will be able to concentrate on legislating rather than fund-raising, and on implementing the agendas of their constituents rather than the agendas of special interests.