Why voting isn’t enough
Democracy is based on voting, then why are we saying that voting isn’t enough?
For that, we first need to understand what the rationale behind creating a democratic system was.
Democracy was founded on the principle of giving power back to the people. The elected government is of, by and for the people.
This is what saves us from a tyrannical dictator that can oppress the people. This will help in promoting the values of liberty and freedom.
Finally, power will be decentralized away from dictators and kings.
However, we see at present governments exerting more and more control over the people.
They are involved in every area of our lives. From your birth to your marriage to your death, the government is there to monitor, control, or take it’s cut.
Even though these governments are elected by people’s vote to ‘serve’ them they are becoming more and more like ‘masters’.
Isn’t that people’s power?
Most people believe that since voters choose which government comes to power, this means that the actions of the government are justified.
After all, people elected them and the actions of the government represent the will of the people, right?
“The government in a democracy derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed but consent is only meaningful when it is informed.”-Edward Snowden
Laws like the Patriot Act which gave the government unlimited power to spy on its citizens.
This essentially made the United States a surveillance state is a good example of that.
People are told that their privacy is meaningless, if they aren’t doing anything wrong what do they have to hide?
The elected government however, that has the most potential for abuse of power, has the least transparency and accountability to its citizens.
Any information that shows that abuse of power is made classified. All who challenge it are branded traitors or anti-national.
So is it all about transparency?
Lack of transparency is just part of the problem that extends much deeper.
A Princeton study analyzed 20 years of what congress in the United States did or did not do.
At the same time, they studied public sentiment through polls on the policies implemented.
The results of the study showed that public sentiment had a near-zero and statistically non- significant impact upon public policy.
It is a flat line graph, which says that even if the people in support of the policy increase from zero to 100, the likelihood of that policy passing stays the same.
However when they studied the correlation between policy implementation vs the preferences of Economic Elites, I.e. the donor class there was a much more direct correlation.
Even organized interest groups had a higher substantial impact on public policy.
Thus, we learn that the laws passed, represent the will of the Donors class, and not the democratic will of the citizens.
Can we not vote the right people to power?
There are a lot of reasons as to why voting, by itself, is not enough. Following are a few of them
1)The influence of money
To run a political campaign you need a lot of money and a person that funds his own campaign by design is someone who is part of the elite.
Money raised comes with strings attached.
For it is obvious if they need the recurring donations coming their way, they need to push for policies that are in the interest of their donors.
2)Type of person attracted to politics
Most of the power in society is concentrated in the hands of the government.
It can use force and violence to implement various decisions and that makes it attractive to people that are hungry for power.
To see a genuine politician that has integrity, fights, and runs for a cause is rare, and even rarer is to see such a politician win.
3)Decisions without consequences
Individuals and organizations that make decisions each day face consequences for those decisions.
By analyzing the negative and positive consequences, they are able to improve and thus make better decisions in the future.
This way they become more accountable for their choices.
However, the people elected, pay no price for being wrong for the decisions they make. Instead, the voters suffer for the mistakes of their government.
How can we expect elected leaders to make better-nuanced decisions if they themselves are not accountable when things go wrong?
A few parties dominate politics in almost all countries and thus any well-intentioned politician that slips through the cracks has to then, join a certain side. This forces them to bow down to party loyalty.
When most politicians represent a handful of donor elites, it then is impossible to persuade them to see the moral high ground on a policy beneficial for the masses.
Furthermore, this party-loyalty forces its constituents into further extremes. People feel compelled to defend even the worst actions of their party majority.
Voter suppression tactics, partisan gerrymandering, and in some cases even unexplainable ‘voting machine’ errors all play their part so that the voting process can be influenced.
Policies like holding closed primaries, negotiations on conventions, and even superdelegates are all undemocratic in spirit.
Yet they are still used this shows that people in power don’t necessarily want a legitimate democratic process if it might on the off chance hurt their chances of re-election.
“If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”– Mark Twain
Is there a check on the government?
On a large scale, we should focus on bringing more transparency to the government.
We also need to promote institutions that are not in any way shape or form influenced by the government. We like to believe that these institutions are the Courts and Press.
However, as an intellectual and political activist, Noam Chomsky showed in his book Manufacturing consent not everything is at it seems.
The Press functions as a thought control tool for the establishment. I highly recommend that you read the book or at least watch a documentary on it.
As for courts, the government in power usually appoints the Supreme Court justices and even the major legal authority (Attorney general) of the country.
This makes it so they can easily appoint people biased towards current administration which is what has happened so far.
A Democratic candidate usually appoints a liberal or moderate justice whereas a Republican president appoints a conservative justice.
What can we do besides vote?
Now that we recognise that the system at present is working more towards self-preservation and expanding more and more control over everything else, we see that change within the system can never be the only solution.
There is however merit to efforts that make the government more accountable. This can be done either on the grassroots level if we can incentivize funding from the people as a legitimate way of campaigning, otherwise, it has to come through direct ballot initiatives.
Policies proposals such as democracy dollars and thoughts on direct democracy laws are positive steps towards these goals respectively.
These steps to reform the political system has to be coupled with a strong outside force. Only when there are organised protests that have clear policy demands can there be true change.
We saw this in the march for civil rights by Martin Luther King.
We saw it again in the protests against fuel taxes in the yellow vest protests in France, and even in India with the need for anti-corruption Lokpal bill strike by activist Anna Hazare.
“Don’t go in politics, stay outside, and work as a pressure group. That is the only way to bring change.”-Anna Hazare
How to bring real change
Firstly, we must realize that voting by itself will not change the world. If we keep waiting for an ideal politician to come and save the country, we might have to wait a long time.
What we need to do is start by bringing change to our surroundings. If we see injustice happening in our surroundings, we should act against it.
Not only is it where we have the most power to bring change, but this is also what affects our day-to-day life the most.
Secondly, we must promote efforts by people or groups that bring more accountability to the government.
By increasing accountability and transparency in the workings of governments, that otherwise have little to no oversight, the people will be in a much more informed place. That is the only way to bring trust in the government.
Thirdly, we should encourage dissent. When Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem, he was met with immense hate and ridicule and his patriotism was questioned.
His entire career got destroyed just because he was peacefully protesting systematic and institutional racism in his country.
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”–Howard Zinn
As Anna said, only by working as an outside pressure group can we bring a real change as Gandhi or Mandela did in the past, and like the people fighting for Black lives matter are doing at present.
We urge you to live more consciously and explore what your callings are. Do you possess the courage to chase them?
We provide a free eBook called The perfect beginning that might help you in finding those callings.
I hope you have a good day and a good life.