By: Russ Brewer
It’s our duty to question and debate. In our quest to create a more perfect union, we have been found rigid and complacent. Our system of government has not seen a major change in its form and function ever since the founding fathers’ laid it down. I say it is long over due for reorganization.
The American dream, for me, is summed up in one phrase, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, one of the most famous phrases out of the Declaration of Independence. These are our inalienable rights and I believe they are being squashed and ignored in very fundamental ways. Under the current system, every person is without opportunity to have these rights.
Life: How might people be allowed to live without great suffering if they are denied medical care? 47 million Americans continue to be uninsured. They live, get sick or injured, and die. You may only survive to ripe old age if you are lucky and have the monetary means to pay for health care. The poor and downtrodden, how do they afford premiums? Providing equality and insuring access to care is essential to one having a life. In effect, they are denied rights that we should all have inherently.
Liberty: Our freedoms are handed over to the government. The freedom of choice is retarded in that our choices to elect officials do not rest in the hands of the voting population. The choice of the people is provided by moneyed interests. They donate campaign funds (vote by monetary means) to make their candidate more visible. Money wins elections, not ideas.
Happiness: Money can’t buy you love but it can surely allow you to have a higher standard of living. Immense greed has shipped jobs overseas, plunged the population into unprecedented consumer debt, and created the largest gap between the rich and poor ever seen in America. Without restraints on personal and corporate hoarding of wealth and more opportunity provided to our lower class, the divide will only continue until you have one man with everything and all else with none.
These are the rights all Americans value, but none truly have unless you are comparatively wealthy. The power of the vote is diminished as it is not up to the voter who is elected or what legislation becomes enacted. The power lay in the hands of those who paid for the advertising for the electoral campaign and also those that hold office that act in the interest of their backers and not of their larger, poorer constituency. People are given the nominee of each party. Each party raises private funds to inform the public that they should be elected to office. The candidate with the most funds wins the election. To be re-elected, the official votes so that they may receive the most campaign contributions thus winning the next cycle.
“Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.”
— Che Guevara, Marxist revolutionary
I do not believe our founding fathers intended to let our nation be ruled by a few wealthy interests as the people were ignored and taxed. They revolutionized the nation with a government based on equality of the vote. As it sits today, our aristocracy are better known as corporations and private wealthy citizens. The legislature ignores the economic plight greater America is facing right now. They are lobbied and bought off to tax our future generations to pay for the mistakes of greedy financial institutions and auto manufacturers. The American people did not have a choice where a $700 billion bail-out went. We empowered “Representatives” to make the choice for us.
In what way, if our rights are ignored and our national wealth is squandered, are we still “represented” by our legislature? If the people were given the vote to enact their own legislation, their vote would be all the representation they need. “They (Founding Fathers) saw a danger in majorities forcing their will on minorities, notably manifested in what Madison referred to as the “leveling impulse” of democracy to restrict the wealth and power of economic and social elites in favor of the public at large.” – Wikipedia. And the fear that the “mob” would disproportionately tax or institute discriminatory social policy is no more of a threat as what we have today with a republic. If we wanted to protect groups from unfair taxes or social discrimination we would write our constitution to reflect that. Perhaps rights of commerce be written to include a non-progressive tax or other protections to keep the mob from being self destructive.
Why can’t the American people be their own advocate for how the nation is to conduct its business? The people are no less intelligent, no less capable of voting yea or nay, and no less qualified in any way to be able to say what is in their best interest. At one time there were reasons to elect a person to speak on our behalf. Before the advent of telecommunications, you couldn’t press a button to communicate your personal vote to Washington D.C. whenever a bill was to be decided. Instead, we put our trust in a corrupt few to shape the lives of the many.
“But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share; so that it results that in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign.” -Aristotle
I attest that the Legislature, composed of Congress, is a relic of our past inability to communicate our personal votes instantaneously. I also attest that private funding has no place in a system based on equality of every man indiscriminate of his means, and that being given a choice means that every alternative is given an equal chance to be heard in the public arena.
Therefore, there are two fundamental changes I suggest we as a nation make to our political body;
Firstly, we are to dismantle congress entirely. We shall instead have the general public be required by law to vote on bills proposed by public committees. They could, when voting, choose to abstain on an issue if they wish. The committees would be persons, self organized, from any walk of life who demonstrated general support for a cause worthy of legislation.
They would then be given a predetermined amount of public funding to gather signatures and garner support, like through advertisements, for their bill. Any persons opposed to the bill would be allowed the same amount of funding to run the opposition campaign against the bill. No other funds, favors, gifts, properties or compensation of any kind could be received or given by any person a member of the committees or any volunteer of either side.
After adequate popular support for the bill had been established, through the number of signatures collected, the bill may go to the public vote. This would be a period of a few days regularly scheduled throughout the year when people would exercise their civic duty by deciding law and policy. Those proving a reasonable complication to their ability to vote would be allowed to abstain. Persons without justification for missing a vote would simply be fined. (A practice now in place in Australia’s political system) A vote would be cast online via an internet website where people could login with identification in the comfort of their own home or any public library. For any portion of the electorate without access or wishing an alternative means of voting could still vote by paper ballot and by mail.
It is in this way that law or policy enacted would be by the wish of the majority of the voting public. Whether that is a simple majority or another split could be up for debate. This would truly be a representation of the wishes of the American people. The many, my hopes are, will enact progressive policy to help the most citizens.
You probably ask then, “Where is the rest of the system of check and balances? The Executive and Judicial branches?” Well, the courts would remain intact mostly. Its primary function as making sure rights are observed and protected in the law making process and also on the legal side of things. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the justices of each state they would be selected by their peers. Each state would have their judges vote in new Supreme Court Justices.
The Presidency would function much as it does now, a figure head to work with foreign powers and a leader to communicate a direction for the nation. He would retain his veto power and executive order privileges as there are exceptions when swift action must be taken. The real difference would be how they would become elected and keep office.
The top ten political parties would be given the same amount of public funds to campaign for their candidate. Anyone wishing to participate may petition to receive an equal amount of public funds. No part of a candidate’s campaign may be funded privately as previously stated. When it comes time they would come to public vote. No electoral college map to disenfranchise voters, giving some purportedly more or less say in the outcome or handing the “real vote“ to unelected delegates.
The candidate with the most votes would be president. He would sit for four years or if reelected, for eight. If decisions are made by the president that the people disapprove of, they may petition to the supreme court to send the impeachment to public vote. Impeachment in this sense is to “remove the President and his cabinet from office” to be replaced by a new Administration voted on just as it was a normal election, but perhaps with a more restricted time table. This way, an elected official may be ousted at any time.
Any of the petitioning that goes on must have fairly significant public support. Only signatures gathered using public funds through grant writing or private funds not supplied by business interests would be considered for any part of the governmental process.
People deserve exactly the government they vote for. With the most people possible with legislative power I feel as they wouldn’t act contrary to their interests they would sculpt law to meet their needs. Society will fulfill the requirements of government to ensure the inalienable rights. Most people want to live and allow others to live with out having to suffer with out health care. The majority of us would like our rights respected and to able to shape how we are ruled. And everyone wants the opportunity to prosper. By the will of the people it will be so.
I believe then, with the power in the hands of Americans, this can once again be a nation by the people, for the people. The alternative is a nation of contradiction, touting freedom as champion and giving the real vote only to those with deep enough pockets.