Democracy. Arguably the greatest governmental invention ever and one of the absolute greatest things about the United States of America. Democracy changed the way we view government forever by giving everyone an equal voice and by stopping the allowance for unconfirmed rulers. The only people who get power have to be chosen by the people and continually so. However, the originators of democracy, and even our founding fathers thousands of years later, could not have prepared for the way the world has changed into what it is today. They could not have predicted television broadcasting and the internet that get information, a view, or opinion out to every constituent almost instantaneously. They could not have known just how much money could give people power in a democratic society and how much it could influence what were supposed to be widely chosen and honest representatives. They could not have had insight into the myriad ways representatives would end up playing with the system to maintain power. Nonetheless, the fact that we have a democracy is still our most powerful tool for fighting back against the changes that have diminished the power of democracy itself in this changing day and age. Democracy is our biggest hope for change.. Just not how it stands now.
There are two main problems that have shown their face as a relatively unchanged system has come into a new age
Democracy, as an idea, is extremely powerful: give everyone an equal voice and let them choose who will voice their views in a forum of lawmakers, executive decision-makers, and law interpreters. The idea that no one person has a more powerful say than anyone else. There are two main problems that have shown their face as a relatively unchanged system has come into a new age, though. One, it takes a lot of work to maintain even this basic principle of giving everyone an equal say and two, people are extremely subject to being swayed in a direction that, if they knew the consequences, they wouldn’t go in the first place. We’ll call these the problem of government and the problem of the media, respectively. Now, I highly doubt these problems were ever invisible, however, it is to the extent that the advancement of our society and the booming of business, especially in this country, have been able to weaken these two prongs of democracy maintenance so quickly that is concerning and causes this to be such a big problem today. Let’s take a look at each of these problems individually to get a better understanding of what is going on and hopefully some insight into how we can fix them.
The first one, the problem of government, has received more attention for a longer period of time. People have long been discussing the corruption of politicians, the populations that are underrepresented, and the suffering of so many that just doesn’t seem to be cared about by our politicians. This discussion has just recently begun to take the big stage though in the form of movements pioneered by the likes of people like Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang. One term familiar with supporters of both candidates is “anti-establishment”. This, in one phrase, sums up how people feel about the current powers that exist in government. They are a “them”, not an “us”. They have their own interests, their own bubble. Nothing else could better display the feeling of not being represented by our “representatives.” There are many diagnoses of what went wrong here, of what the problem is that has led to so many negative consequences. They range from a federal government that has garnered too much power and become too centralized, to criticizing the way we elect our representatives such as the electoral college and the “First Past the Post” voting system, to the ability for these representatives to become career politicians, and the structure of the campaign finance system. All of these diagnoses carry merit, let’s discuss some solutions to address them.
The absolute best way to fix this is to determine what is actually necessary and the true function of government, cut everything else, and fix the way we deal with these necessary things.
First, the way I view the problem of the federal government being too centralized and having too much power is a money flow issue that has also led to a bogging down by so much bureaucracy. Federal spending has greatly increased over the past several decades with the increase in means-tested welfare programs, random projects funded by the government, and subsidies that are given to so many unessential industries including failing ones such as the dairy industry. This, in turn, has led to more bureaucracy increasing the need for government jobs which increases the amount of money flowing to the federal government even more, especially due to means-tested welfare programs. The absolute best way to fix this is to determine what is actually necessary and the true function of government, cut everything else, and fix the way we deal with these necessary things. For instance, subsidies for unnecessary and failing industries should not be a concern for the government regardless of the perceived economic consequences. Next, welfare programs are a great idea but means-tested ones create some of the biggest and most controversial problems today. Get rid of means-tested programs, save for social security and possibly a few other programs currently in existence, and replace them with a federal Universal Basic Income, putting the money flow in the people’s hands where it belongs. Next, we need to change our FPTP voting system to something like STAR voting or Ranked-Choice Voting so we more accurately elect candidates that the majority will approve of and that will do their best to represent everyone. Furthermore, we require term limits for all of our representatives, not just the president. Lastly, but perhaps most direly, to fix the problem of corruption, we ought to instate Democracy Dollars, the idea that everyone is given a voucher to contribute to campaigns to restore an equal say throughout the entire process rather than letter our corporations select the two candidates we have to choose from in the general.
This is the exact problem of the media, influencing voters with misinformation, or at very least, twisted information and views, that lead to less than ideal outcomes in our political system.
The second problem, the one of the media, has started to receive more light recently. Largely, I think, due to the calling out of democratic establishment media by Donald Trump. While I disagree with the polarizing way he has done so and the putting up of FOX news on a pedestal which does the same things as networks like MSNBC, just in the other direction, he is not wrong to claim that the mainstream media in our country is hugely biased (earning us an abysmal score of 45th in the World Press Freedom Index). Democrats still largely trust mainstream media which, I believe, has led directly to the nomination of such a weak, pathetic, and unrepresentative candidate as Joe Biden. This is the exact problem of the media, influencing voters with misinformation, or at very least, twisted information and views, that lead to less than ideal outcomes in our political system. The solution for this is a little less straight-forward as we can’t, and shouldn’t, create laws to prevent these sources from saying things as free speech is so fundamental and important. Instead, this takes more involvement by voters to think critically about the information they are taking in and push-back by citizens in the form of Letter to The Editors, Op-Eds, and the general increase of conversation about important things. Additionally, we should put more emphasis on local news again. This, perhaps, could be fixed by a bill that allocates funding to local news entities as suggested in a less known but important Yang policy. While these fixes are a little more abstract and can’t be changed by laws, save for the last one mentioned, it is equally as important as fixing the problem of government.
With the mending of these two things, government structures and the mainstream media, we can reinstate the great invention of democracy in our country. We are lucky to have these structures in place and still in existence to make these changes but we shouldn’t settle for the bare bones of democracy and instead should reinstitute the full power of it. By fixing this one thing, democracy, we can restore hope for a better future for so many that have lost it.