Re-Inventing Democracy for the 21st Century
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. 21ST CENTURY DEMOCRACY AT THE CROSSROADS
Increasing Voter Dissatisfaction Worldwide
Growing Government-Fueled Inequities Worldwide
Undemocratic Political Parties, Undemocratic Governments
The Disconnect between Voters and Lawmakers
II. EMPOWERING VOTERS TO RE-INVENT POLITICAL PARTIES
The Need for Voter-Driven Paradigm Shifts
Populism versus Elitism?
Network Technology and Party-Building Tools
Additional Voter-Driven Paradigm Shifts
III. THE HISTORIC RISE AND FALL OF POLITICAL PARTIES
Past As Prologue?
Proposed Remedies To Reform Undemocratic Political Parties
IV. CAN U.S. VOTERS RE-INVENT THE U.S. POLITICAL PARTY SYSTEM?
The 21st Century Crisis of Democracy
Democracies around the world are in crisis. They are confronted with multiplying conflicts, legislative stalemates, and widespread voter dissatisfaction with political parties, electoral processes and elected representatives.
These conflicts and stalemates prevent governments from meeting the needs of their citizens, and addressing life threatening risks, such as those posed by extreme climate disruption and the global spread of asymmetric warfare.
Causes of the conflicts and stalemates include:
- Democracies have failed to create large-scale consensus-building mechanisms for reconciling the divergent political and legislative priorities held by millions of voters, and political parties, electoral candidates, and elected representatives serving in legislative bodies.
- Political parties, their candidates and elected representatives increase the number of political conflicts by pursuing polarizing, ideologically driven agendas in order to increase their electoral and legislative influence.
- Since most voters’ legislative priorities cross ideological and partisan lines, voters are dissatisfied with highly partisan, ideologically driven parties, electoral candidates backed by these parties, and elected party representatives that adopt uncompromising legislative stances. (Stern, 2017; Pew Research Center, 2014; Fiorina (2014.)
- Voters’ dissatisfaction with parties, party candidates, and elected party representatives is increased when they favor the priorities and demands of special interests over voters’ needs and priorities.
Loss of Trust in Government, Declining Support of Political Parties
Unsurprisingly, recent cross-national surveys have found that governments are among the least trusted institutions globally. At the same time, public trust in political parties, electoral candidates, and elected representatives continues to erode, even in well-established democracies.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer (2016), the year 2015 witnessed a global “plunge of trust in government due to stalemate and perceived incapacity.” In 2017, U.S. voters’ trust in government plummeted 37% in just one year, with 2 out of 3 American voters distrusting government. (Edelman, 2018).
Among the causes of distrust in the U.S is the fact that the views of most Americans on key issues are more moderate and convergent than those of the country’s two major political parties and their elected representatives. Voters’ political priorities on these issues, instead of being tightly aligned with those of the two parties along ideological and partisan lines, are not only more moderate and convergent with each other, but more susceptible to modification and compromise. (Stern, 2017.)
These divergent priorities exacerbate tensions between voters and parties when parties corral voters into “no choice” elections in which voters have had little influence, if any, in determining party platforms, or deciding which candidates are on the ballot and what are their legislative priorities.
These tensions increase when political parties that short-circuit voters’ exercise of their popular sovereignty in elections are able to elect lawmakers who ignore their constituents’ needs and demands once they take office. In fact, it has now become a commonplace occurrence for lawmakers to pass laws that contravene the priorities of large majorities of voters. This further increases the gap between voters and lawmakers priorities and tensions between them when lawmakers enact legislation favoring the priorities and demands of special interests that fund their electoral campaigns. (Gilens and Page, 2014).
Declining Trust — and Its Reversal
Globally, indications of voter distrust and dissatisfaction include:
- Growing opposition to traditional political parties, party candidates, and elected representatives that routinely flout the will of their constituents.
- Widespread perception that political parties and party politicians may engage in corrupt practices.
- Loss of faith that elections are “free and fair” and declared winners have been democratically elected.
- Susceptibility of frustrated voters to appeals and political campaigns of unscrupulous politicians, as well as radical and extremist individuals, groups, and foreign agents.
- Increasing numbers of electoral upsets; demonstrations, protests and confrontations initiated by irate votes; secession movements; extra-legal actions; political violence; and paramilitary anti-government insurgencies.
These indications of declining trust in traditional representative forms of government, coupled with growing anti-government opposition by voters across the spectrum, are leading experts, academicians and critics of the status quo to urge that democratic institutions and processes be quickly and fundamentally modified to prevent more damaging consequences.
In particular, they argue that the structure and functioning of traditional political parties must be redesigned and reorganized so they promote rather than interfere with voters’ rights and prerogatives to decide who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
Instead of allowing undemocratic party practices to result in “no choice” elections, in which voters have little influence over which candidates are on the ballot and what are their legislative priorities, voters must be empowered to accomplish the following:
- Individually and autonomously define their own legislative priorities.
- Play a decisive role in determining political parties’ platforms, slates of party candidates and candidates’ legislative agendas — even if voters decisions in these matters cross parties’ ideological and partisan lines.
- Vote in genuinely democratic elections to elect representatives they choose to enact their agendas.
- Oversee and direct the legislative actions of their elected representatives to ensure they exert their best efforts to enact voters’ legislative agendas.
- Decide to hold lawmakers electorally accountable for their legislative actions by nominating and electing candidates of their choice to defeat them in upcoming elections.
The Global Social Network for Voters
In order to circumvent current political party practices that electorally and legislative disempower voters, it is necessary to create a new 21st century democracy-building platform in cyberspace that enables voters to freely set their legislative agendas, build consensus across ideological and partisan lines to support common agendas, and organize politically to get their agendas enacted legislatively.
The party-building web technology of the Global Social Network for Voters, which includes the patented consensus-building Interactive Voter Choice System, is one of the most promising platforms for this empowerment.
The network and system will create a common ground where voters and elected representatives, political parties and electoral candidates can collectively define, share, and reconcile divergent legislative priorities.
The agenda setting, political organizing and consensus-building tools provided by the network and system enable voters to take the lead, individually and collectively, in defining their priorities across ideological and partisan lines. The tools enable them to organize politically to run and elect representatives of their choice to implement their agendas.
These tools enable voters to bring about two major paradigm shifts in the structure and functioning of political parties. First, voters can democratically re-organize existing political parties to ensure they meet the needs of the voters they are intended to serve. Second, voters can also build, control and manage their own online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions that can work with traditional parties — or supplant them electorally.
Voters’ blocs, parties and coalitions hosted on the network will be motivated to build consensus across ideological and partisan lines in order to forge transpartisan electoral bases large enough to win elections. If they pursue narrow, hyper-partisan, ideologically driven agendas, they are likely to become losing splinter groups that lack the voting strength they need to win elections. Another advantage to be gained by continuous outreach and transpartisan consensus-building is that this strategy will enable their blocs, parties and coalitions to grow large enough to win elections without needing campaign financing from special interests that would later skew their legislative priorities.
Post-election, voters will be able to pressure lawmakers to enact their agendas by using network tools to conduct online petition drives, referendums, initiatives and straw recall votes. They can publicize the results and share them with their elected representatives to focus their attention on voters’ immediate legislative goals, and demonstrate the depth and breadth of their base of popular support. Decisive straw recall votes will alert recalcitrant lawmakers to electoral risks and vulnerablities they might incur if they ignore voters’ demands.
In anticipation of upcoming elections, bloc, party and coalition members can individually and collectively evaluate lawmakers’ legislative actions to determine how effective they appear to have been in exerting their best efforts to enact bloc, party and coalition agendas. They can use their evaluations to decide whether to support or oppose their re-election, and organize get-out-the-vote campaigns to elect lawmakers of their choice.
I. 21ST CENTURY DEMOCRACY AT THE CROSSROADS
Increasing Voter Dissatisfaction Worldwide
The 21st century marks a pervasive loss of confidence in government and widespread skepticism among voters that government decision-makers will solve life-threatening risks, such as climate change and warfare.
Government “is the least trusted institution globally … 2015 witnessed a ‘plunge of trust in government due to stalemate and perceived incapacity,’” according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, In 2017, U.S. voters’ trust in government plummeted 37% in just one year, with 2 out of 3 American voters distrusting government. (Edelman (2018).
72 countries became less democratic in 2015, as reported in The Guardian View on Democracy.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2015 Democracy Index,
“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.”
Voters in many countries are particularly dissatisfied with political parties and the lawmakers they elect to legislative bodies. They are frustrated by the extent to which many parties appear to contrive and perpetuate conflicts on the basis of ideological and partisan preferences. They are also frustrated by the legal and apparently illegal mechanisms that certain parties use to diminish voters’ power to influence elections and legislation. Unsurprisingly, many voters think lawmakers do not care what they think. They also think that lawmakers’ legislative actions tend to favor special interests that fund their electoral campaigns.
In the US, dissatisfaction with political parties has caused more voters to register outside the two major parties than in either party alone. Even though a majority of Americans have long wanted to replace most members of the U.S. Congress, the two major parties controlling Congress have prevented them from doing so by gerrymandering the boundaries of election districts and manipulating election laws and practices to give party representatives “safe seats” from which party-backed lawmakers cannot be dislodged.
Growing Government-Fueled Inequities Worldwide
Parallel to these trends, the 21st century also marks growing inequities worldwide — especially the upward shift of wealth and income to a small minority of the population. This upward shift is accompanied by steep declines in the wealth and income of the large majority, especially the middle class. Government sponsored tax and wage policies appear to be largely responsible for these shifts. As a whole, many former members of the US middle class and the working classes can not obtain living wage jobs or afford basic necessities, such as adequate medical care and affordable housing. One adverse consequence is that the opening decade of the 21st century has been referred to as a “lost decade” for U.S. workers and the economy.
Another consequence of variable tax and wage policies is revealed by international rankings of countries with respect to degree of wealth and income inequality. The U.S., with the third largest economy in the world, is now one of the lowest ranked countries among the top 21 “well-off” countries because of its wealth and income inequality, according to the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. This low ranking is largely due to the discrepancy between the income of corporate executives and average workers, as well as the failed U.S. “safety net” and cutbacks in social programs that keep people from improving their status. There are upwards of 50 million “working poor”, homeless, impoverished and “food insecure” people in the U.S.
While there are numerous causes of these inequities, and vast differences of opinion about about which are the most important, one key cause lies with undemocratic political parties that manipulate election laws and practices to prevent voters from determining who runs for office and what platforms they are running on. In essence, they compel voters to vote in “no choice” elections involving candidates that voters have not placed on the ballot, who are running on platforms determined by parties and candidates rather than voters. According to prominent social scientists, the actions of these parties are reversing centuries of progress away from vertical, hierarchical social organization towards horizontal and egalitarian social organization.
Instead of furthering social progress towards greater egalitarianism, cooperation, consensus-building, and “bottom-up” power-sharing, undemocratic political parties are fueling divisive political conflicts, advocating unbridled competitiveness rather than consensus building, and promoting unconstrained acquisition and concentration of wealth and income at the top of the social ladder. (Dacher, PhD (2016).The Power Paradox: The Promise and Peril of 21st Century Power | Talks at Google.)
These parties and their candidates use the seeds of the conflicts they sow to inflame passions and polarize voters in order to win elections, gain greater political influence in legislative bodies, and increase their own fortunes and those of the special interests that finance their campaigns. Unfortunately for the constituents of these parties and lawmakers, their behavior often leads to prolonged legislative stalemates. During prolonged political gridlocks, lawmakers’ neglect the needs, priorities and demands of their constituents even when they face increasing life-threatening risks — including injuries, loss of life and material devastation caused by extreme weather and spreading global conflicts..
Party and government-caused inequities and actions to diminish voters’ electoral and legislative influence, have also been found to fuel political violence. Research conducted by the World Bank and others indicates that “the risk of conflict is higher in countries where the government tends to infringe on the fundamental rights of its citizens.” They are countries deficient in the rule of law, political rights and civil liberties, and honest elections.
These findings lend credibility and significance to causal links found between public distrust of democratically unaccountable parties, candidates, lawmakers and governments on the whole and globally expanding and escalating social unrest. Indications of these links include:
- Growing opposition to traditional political parties, party candidates, elected representatives and laws they enact.
- Widespread perception that political parties and party politicians may engage in corrupt practices.
- Loss of faith that elections are fair and declared winners have been democratically elected.
- Susceptibility of frustrated voters to appeals and interference of radical and extremist individuals, groups, and foreign interventions.
- Increasing numbers of electoral upsets; demonstrations, protests and confrontations; secessionist movements; extra-legal actions; political violence; and paramilitary insurgencies.
Undemocratic Political Parties, Undemocratic Governments
How and why do undemocratic parties play such a-historic roles in reversing centuries of social progress and undermining democracy?
While there are many factors, primary among them are the unceasing efforts by political parties to increase their political influence through the steady decrease of voters’ power to control elections and legislation. This decrease is the result of mechanisms parties have been introducing into electoral and legislative processes that prevent voters from determining who runs for office on party ballots, what are candidates’ legislative agendas, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.
Undemocratic parties, especially the two major U.S. parties, continuously strive to insert various types of obstructions into electoral and legislative processes that reduce voters’ power to determine their outcomes. These obstructions include unfair laws and rules that alter the boundaries of election districts (known as “gerrymandering” in the U.S.) and “winner-take-all” practices that keep minority parties and candidates from winning elections or gaining proportional representation in legislative bodies. They also include vote suppression mechanisms that prevent eligible voters from registering to vote, and remove registered voters from official voter files so they cannot vote on election day.
The end result of this interference is that voters are compelled to choose among party candidates running on legislative agendas over which voters have virtually no control. Often voters disdain the party-backed candidates the parties place on the ballot. This occurred in the 2016 U.S. presidential election when a majority of Americans did not like either of the presidential candidate nominated by the two major U.S. political parties that control U.S. electoral processes and legislative bodies.
Once undemocratic parties get undemocratically elected representatives into legislative bodies, they are free to ignore voters’ needs, priorities and demands, and pass legislation favoring the special interests that finance their electoral campaigns. Unsurprisingly, such legislation exacerbates a whole spectrum of inequities.
The Disconnect between Voters and Lawmakers
In the US, where the party-contrived disconnect between voters and lawmakers is particularly severe, legislators are typically elected in general elections by winning the votes of only one-third to one-half of eligible voters. Party candidates can get on general election ballots by winning primary elections in which only ten percent to twenty-five percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Since primary voters tend to be “die-hard” proponents of candidates and legislation that significantly deviate from mainstream preferences, the candidates they place on general election ballots compel voters to “elect” representatives whose priorities do not match voters’ priorities.
The result is that elected representatives are largely disconnected from the people they are supposed to represent, not only because they are elected by a minority of voters who are eligible to vote, but also because the voters who do cast ballots have had so little say in who is actually on the ballots and what are their legislative agendas. The result is that the laws enacted by such undemocratically elected lawmakers tend to reflect their own priorities and those of their special interest campaign donors, while they ignore those of their constituents.
Empirical evidence of the resulting party-engineered legislative disconnect between voters and elected party representatives can be found by comparing voters’ priorities with the priorities reflected in the legislation enacted by lawmakers.
A case in point is the U.S. healthcare system. The discrepancy between lawmakers’ preferences and the preferences of a majority of Americans for a “single payer” government-sponsored system is reflected in the long-standing refusal of the majority of Congressional lawmakers elected by both major U.S. parties to implement such a system.
The large majority of these lawmakers received campaign contributions from special interests, especially private insurance providers, that oppose a “single payer” government sponsored system. In this case and many similar cases, the most reliable predictors of lawmakers’ legislative intentions and actions are the priorities of the special interests that fund their campaigns — rather than the needs and priorities of their constituents. The conflicts of interests underlying these discrepancies between voters’ priorities and lawmakers’ priorities are unique in their capacity to undermine democracy.
More troubling is the fact that even when voters see lawmakers enacting legislation they oppose, in most cases they cannot effectively intervene to require them to change course. Nor can voters remove lawmakers from office during their terms when voters observe these lawmakers to take legislative positions that seriously jeopardize their well-being — for example, by refusing to come to their aid when natural disasters occur, or when they engage in corrupt or illegal acts. One primary reason they cannot do so is that U.S. political parties have systematically and legally abolished the removal provisions that were once embedded in state election laws empowering voters to recall lawmakers from office during their terms.
It should be noted that voters’ ability to control foreign policy-making by elected legislative bodies and chief executives is even weaker than their ability to control domestic legislation — a weakness that can cause equally adverse consequences in terms of voters’ physical safety and well-being. Voters simply do not have effective channels for effectively individually and collectively defining and publicizing their views and priorities, voicing their opinions or interjecting their preferences into these decisions.
Significantly, undemocratic parties often serve as institutional enablers that make it possible for unscrupulous politicians, authoritarian personalities, and even immoral and mentally unbalanced individuals to use party electoral machinery get into office and stay in office even when their actions endanger and harm the people they were elected to serve.
In turn, unscrupulous politicians that obtain elective office tend to reinforce undemocratic practices of these parties. They develop symbiotic relationships that undermine popular sovereignty and democratic institutions and processes. History has shown that such politicians can easily co-opt and take control of undemocratic political parties and their supporters, and use them as “bully pulpits” from which they can lie, confuse, and inflame the passions of voters. One tactic they use is to pit various groups of voters against each other in a classic “divide and conquer” manner. Parties and politicians that lack broad-based popular support can deliberately ignite inter-group conflicts, and mislead voters in order to build electoral bases of incited voters who will elect them to office and keep re-electing them in office, often for long periods of time.
While egalitarian, democratically managed, consensus-building groups of voters are more likely to resolve conflicts than create conflicts, unscrupulous politicians and lawmakers and political parties with which they are allied seek to “drive to extremes” the members of the groups they incite. They create electoral bases comprised of incited groups of voters that collectively have the voting strength to win elections, especially when opponents are divided into separate parties that are too small to win elections. (Sunstein, Cass (2009) Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide.)
Once such demagogues and parties use these tactics to get into office, they tend to provoke growing opposition. To quell this opposition, they contrive various ways and means to curb the exercise of civil, political and human rights — by legal and illegal means. These dynamics can lead to clashes between protesters and governments that escalate into acts of political violence, inside as well as outside the country.
II. EMPOWERING VOTERS TO RE-INVENT POLITICAL PARTIES
The most serious crisis confronting representative forms of democracy worldwide is not merely the existence of divergent political priorities, or the active creation of divergent priorities by ideologically driven political parties. It is the lack of consensus-building mechanisms for resolving them at all levels, starting at the grassroots.
Political parties should have taken the lead long ago to build such mechanisms into their core activities, as well as in the operations of legislative bodies. But they have failed to do so, primarily because of their focus on gaining and exercising electoral and legislative power. Now that they have succeeded in gaining that control by diminishing voters’ power to control elections and legislation, it is unlikely that they will exert a concerted effort to roll back the laws, court decisions, rules and practices that they and their candidates and incumbents use to get into the driver’s seat of political power in the heart of legislative and other policy-making bodies.
Efforts by others to overturn these laws, court decisions, rules and practices via traditional reform strategies, on a country by country basis, are unlikely to bear sufficient fruit to re-invigorate the large majority of failing and failed democracies in the foreseeable future.
One of the primary reasons is that traditional political party structures, as originally conceived and operationalized, are inherently undemocratic, as documented by the noted European sociologist Robert Michels at the turn of the last century.
While parties’ original raison d’etre was to empower voters to give expression to the “will of the people” at the grassroots, from the “bottom up”, Michels’s in-depth research showed that most parties naturally evolve into organizations controlled from the “top down’ by party and political elites and special interests for the purpose of advancing their interests rather than voters’ interests. In the process, they usurp voters’ power and influence within the party and in governing institutions and processes, by using party rules and activities to increase their own power, influence and wealth.
It is the recognition of the roles played by undemocratic parties and the undemocratic legislative bodies they elect, coupled with the inefficacy of piecemeal reform efforts to reduce their roles and influence, that has led to the invention of the web technology powering the Global Social Network for Voters.
The Need for Voter-Driven Paradigm Shifts
Voters can use a key component of the technology embedded in the Global Social Network for Voters, the Interactive Voter Choice System (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628), to bring about two major paradigm shifts that fundamentally change how political parties function, and how and by whom they are created, controlled and managed.
The system enables voters to re-organize existing political parties as well as create their own online political parties. They can use the parties they re-organize, and the new parties they create, to define their own political priorities, set their own legislative agendas and nominate their own candidates. They can forge winning electoral coalitions, comprised of parties of their choice, to elect their chosen candidates and guide their legislative actions once they are in office.
Populism versus Elitism?
While critics may argue that these two major paradigm shifts might open the door to populist excesses, scientific research indicates that voter-controlled political parties are more likely to curb undemocratic, elitist excesses of parties controlled from the “top down” by party officials, and the demonstrated tendency of many parties to create conflicts, polarize voters, and exacerbate inequities.
As previously indicated, this research has identified important evolutionary transformations that have been steadily occurring throughout human history — especially with regard to furthering social progress towards greater egalitarianism, cooperation, consensus-building, and “bottom-up” power-sharing.
From infancy through adulthood, individuals and groups that are self-determining tend to cooperate, build consensus, share power and reduce inequities — rather than compete, spawn divisive factions, concentrate power and exacerbate inequities. (See Keltner, PhD, (2015). Survival of the Kindest.)
In the realm of politics and political parties, these egalitarian norms tend to foster compromise and tolerance, in contrast to elitist norms that tend to foster intolerance, divisive conflicts and inequities in their quest for political power. Undemocratic political parties tend to abuse this power unless countervailing individuals and groups prevent them from doing so.
To counteract these tendencies, voter-created and democratically controlled and managed political parties hosted on the Global Social Network for Voters can use its agenda setting, consensus-building and political organizing tools. These tools and services enable them to engage in continuous “bottom-up” consensus building and compromise with voters across the ideological and political spectrum. By so doing, they can act as countervailing political organizations that neutralize and work around undemocratic political parties and party lawmakers that spark conflicts and foster greater concentrations of power and inequities.
Network Technology and Party-Building Tools
To accomplish one of the two major paradigm shifts, voters can use the Global Social Network for Voters to re-organize undemocratic parties in order to circumvent the ideological, organizational, and electoral mechanisms they use in their efforts to diminish voters’ electoral and legislative influence, and corral voters into voting for their candidates.
Here’s one possible scenario for accomplishing this objective. Voters and individuals residing in an area in which an undemocratic party is located can use the network’s party-building tools and technology to connect to each other online in virtually unlimited numbers. These voters and individuals can include people who are already registered members of that party, as well as unregistered voters and individuals who might wish to register in the party under certain conditions — for example, if they could fully and democratically participate in formulating and implementing party decisions.
Here’s one possible scenario for a re-organization. Any voter with who has registered an account on the network, or group of registered voters, can create an online voting bloc hosted on the network, and recruit members to join the bloc. They can devise and vote on rules for formulating relevant party decisions. They can build consensus regarding the party’s political platform, legislative agendas, candidate nominations, electoral strategies and on-going legislative actions.
To convince officials and members of the party they are seeking to re-organize to seriously consider their proposals, they can conduct membership drives to increase the size of their bloc by reaching out to recruit new members to join the bloc, and build consensus with them for reformulating all relevant party decisions, including party rules, etc. This external voter mobilization strategy can strengthen the re-organization efforts of their voting bloc and hopefully bring their efforts to fruition by democratizing a party that had been functionally undemocratically.
If incumbent party officials thwart their efforts to reorganize the party and participate in its decision-making, the members of the voting bloc can turn their attention to creating a new political party to defeat the candidates of the undemocratic party.
In terms of this second type of paradigm shift, voters can use the network’s party-building technology and tools to democratically create, control and manage their own parties online. They can set their own legislative agendas, according to rules they collectively adopt using the network’s online voting utility. The can build a transpartisan electoral base by reaching out to voters across the ideological and partisan spectrum and engaging them in building the party and setting its agenda. Voters can use their parties to nominate and elect their own candidates — and in the process defeat the candidates of undemocratic parties, if they have not been able to re-organize and democratize them. To further increase the size of their electoral base and their chances of winning elections, voter can also use their new parties to form electoral coalitions with existing voting blocs and parties, set common agendas with them, and run common slates of candidates with their coalition partners.
Additional Voter-Driven Paradigm Shifts
1. Crowdsourcing and Collective Intelligence Generation. Two of the most significant breakthroughs of the 21st century are discoveries related to crowdsourcing and the generation of collective intelligence.
They demonstrated that larger groups of individuals working collaboratively together online in relatively unstructured environments and distributed networks can generate more original ideas and unique solutions to complex problems than smaller numbers of problem-solvers working in more structured, hierarchically organized environments.
These findings have particular relevance to legislative bodies and the work of small numbers of elected representatives representing millions of constituents. Typical 21st century lawmakers make legislative decisions for these constituents without having any systematic mechanisms for knowing what are their priorities or resolving conflicts among them. Nor do they have consensus-building mechanisms for reconciling divergent priorities held by lawmakers in the legislative bodies in which they serve.
These findings and disproportionate ratios fly in the face of substantial research showing that larger numbers of people in self-selected, autonomous groups can generate greater collective intelligence and make more intelligent decisions than smaller numbers of people. (Rosenberg, PhD (2017) New hope for humans in an A.I. world | TEDxKC)
The failure to heed these findings is one of the greatest failures of representative forms of government today — a failure that neither lawmakers nor parties appear to be addressing.
Fortunately, the Global Social Network for Voters provides a solution — a unique political crowdsourcing mechanism that enables voters worldwide to re-invent political parties so they can build consensus across ideological and partisan lines to resolve conflicts and reconcile divergent priorities among voters, elected representatives, and electoral candidates.
It is the Interactive Voter Choice System, which provides voters unprecedented tools for agenda setting, political organizing and consensus building that enable them to insert into electoral and legislative processes the proven benefits of online crowdsourcing and collective intelligence generation.
These tools enable virtually unlimited numbers of voters to participate in self-selected and self-managed online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions whose members collect, share and evaluate policy-related information, as well as discuss, debate and devise legislation that meets their needs and solves complex legislative challenges that small groups of lawmakers are not resolving.
The members of these blocs, parties and coalitions can use the network’s online voting utility to vote on legislative proposals, as well as the network’s its information gathering and storage capabilities to ensure their work is guided by as much expertise as that possessed by the small numbers of lawmakers who currently enact legislation on their behalf. By so doing, voters will be able to direct, supplement and eventually supplant the work of the small numbers of lawmakers who enact legislation today.
By using the network’s crowdsourcing and problem-solving mechanisms, voters will be able to circumvent not only the conflicts generated by ideologically-driven political parties and partisan lawmakers, but also those generated by the mass media as well as social media. Blocs, parties and coalitions hosted on the network will have their own internal communication channels and multimedia databases of politically-relevant information. They will be able to collectively decide who they wish to authorize to use their channels and access their own sources and compilations of information.
In place of the “fake news” and messages disseminated by trolls and bots of unknown origin, voter-users registered on the network who have authenticated, network-generated, digital identities will be able to publish verifiably fact-checked “real news” as well as send and received secure email.
They will also be able to counteract the political disinformation disseminated by unscrupulous parties, politicians, candidates, elected officials, and even foreign governments, as allegedly occurred during the 2016 US presidential election.
2. The World’s First Large Scale Consensus Building Platform. The core party building technology of the Global Social Network for Voters, the Interactive Voter Choice System (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628), will create the world’s first large scale consensus-building “common ground” accessible to voters everywhere.
This platform will connect voters to each other across ideological and partisan lines, and empower them to collectively create, control and democratically manage online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions that elect candidates of their choice.
- Every registered user with a private account on the network will be provided a permanent, authenticated, network-generated, digital identity.* This identity entitles them to set their own legislative agendas, and participate in agenda setting and decision-making by voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) which they create or join, if they are open to new members. (*No unauthenticated users will be able to access the network.)
- Voters can join multiple BPCs; exit a bloc, party or coalition whenever they wish; and join or start other BPCs.
- Voters who join or start BPCs will be able to participate in setting rules for managing them, as well as proposing and voting on changes of the rules to adapt to evolving needs and external circumstances. If they do not agree with rules and cannot change them, they can exit the BPC and join or start other BPCs.
- BPCs will be able to reach out to recruit new members across the ideological and political spectrum to build transpartisan consensus around transpartisan legislative agendas, and resolve conflicts using the network’s voting utility to determine their members’ preferences.
- BPCs will be able to forge transpartisan electoral bases that can grow large enough to outflank, outnumber, and defeat the candidates of single political parties they oppose.
- Lawmakers elected by BPCs hosted on the network, as well as lawmakers elected independently of BPCs, will be provided written legislative mandates and agendas collectively set by BPC members, who can update the agendas and mandates at any time.
- If lawmakers fail to exert their best efforts to enact these mandates and agendas, BPCs can conduct petition drives, referendums, initiatives and recall votes. They can publish their results and alert lawmakers if their actions deviate from the mandates and agendas to pressure them to exert their best efforts to enact them.
- If lawmakers do not heed the alerts and pressure, BPCs can start planning electoral campaigns to nominate and elect opposing candidates to oust them in the next election.
Flow Chart of the Network
3. Building Transnational Political Parties. Voters worldwide are increasingly concerned about the failure of nation-state governments and transnational organizations to devise effect solutions to life-threatening transnational crises and risks — especially those related to political conflicts and real as well as threatened devastation caused by extreme weather disruption.
Undemocratic political parties, lawmakers and governments that tend to ignore the needs of their constituents also tend to ignore or downplay these crises and risks. Unfortunately, they often bear responsibility for creating these crises and risks, or allowing others to create and exacerbate them. This appears to be the case with respect to those responsible for human causes of global warming, as well as the role that governments often play in fueling political conflicts and political violence.
What is particularly galling to many voters is their inability to influence the stances and actions of the parties and governments that ignore or exacerbate these crises and risks. Voters lack control over the electoral and legislative institutions and processes and used by their governments to legitimize their engagement in conflicts and confrontations that involve the use of force.
Voters are similarly disenfranchised when it comes to influencing government policies related to extreme weather, and the injuries, loss of life, and material devastation it causes. Chief executives and heads of state meet routinely among themselves at high level conferences to address such challenges, but their actions are often ineffectual, unbinding, and lacking broad-based popular input and support.
Even though it is assumed that the policies they discuss, propose, and pledge to enact, multilaterally and bilaterally, are backed up by legislative bodies and the voters these bodies represent, in fact it often appears that heads of state rarely consult either. Voters are particularly far removed from such decisions because political parties do not serve as channels through which they can express their views about domestic or foreign policies. Nor do they have any way to build consensus among themselves about what actions they prefer and what policies they want their governments to pursue.
The result is that the nearly 100 million people displaced from their homes, communities and countries by conflicts and extreme weather have virtually no say in the resolution of the crises that caused their displacement. This is especially the case with displaced persons who are sequestered in refugee camps that function as de facto prisons from which they cannot escape.
To enable voters and displaced persons to express their needs and gain seats at the tables of these inner sanctums of foreign policy decision-making, the party-building tools and technology of the Global Social Network for Voters provide them the following capabilities:
- Voters worldwide can build transnational online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions (BPCs) to address any issues, problems, crises and conflicts they wish.
- BPCs can elect to include mainstream voters together with non-voters within single countries, as well as displaced persons residing inside and outside their borders who are unable to exercise their civil, political and human rights in their home countries.
- They can collectively build consensus around priorities, agendas and peace plans for enacting policies and legislation to solve problems, crises and conflicts of their choice.
- Similarly, civil society organizations, issue groups, associations, and unions, for example, can also use the network to join existing BPCs or build new BPCs to address issues, problems, crises and conflicts of their choice.
- After gathering and sharing information, and collectively evaluating a range of possible solutions, BPCs can debate, discuss, and vote on various legislative agendas and peace plans devised by their members.
- To implement their agendas and peace plans, members of transnational BPCs can use the network’s party-building tools and technology to form domestic BPCs in their home countries, and use them to pressure lawmakers to enact their agendas and peace plans.
- Domestic lawmakers in their home countries will find it electorally risky to ignore the pressures exerted by transnational BPCs operating domestically, due to the fact that BPCs can use the network’s party-building tools and technology to reach out to voters across ideological and partisan lines to create electoral bases that have the voting strength they need to defeat the lawmakers in upcoming elections.
- Voters and BPCs residing in regions that are dissatisfied with their local, regional or central governments, and wish to negotiate new relationships with these governments, or secede and build new transnational relationships, can conduct online petitions, referendums and initiatives using the network’s voting utility to collectively determine the terms and conditions of new relationships they wish to forge, and strategies for implementing them.
- Voters and BPCs can also use the network’s tools and voting utility to discuss, debate, approve and implement changes to constitutions and governance arrangements in their home countries as well as transnational organizations to enable both to better serve the needs of the people they represent.
The foregoing capabilities and voter-driven paradigm shifts will enable voter-controlled and democratically-managed transnational BPCs to become the change agents for continuous expansion of the electoral and legislative power and influence of the world’s electorates. These political change agents will be able to collectively devise and implement solutions to day-to-day problems, crises and conflicts, as well as present and future life-threatening risks that contemporary political parties and governments are failing to resolve.
III. THE HISTORIC RISE AND FALL OF POLITICAL PARTIES
Past As Prologue?
As mentioned earlier, sociologist Robert Michels found that although political parties were originally intended to be controlled from the “bottom up” by the voters they were supposed to serve, the large majority of parties have steadily gravitated toward “top down” control by political elites and their special interest allies.
In other words, many political parties have been found to subvert their original goals, in the following ways:
- They do not allow party supporters and voters at the grassroots to determine their platforms, set their legislative agendas, nominate and adopt their slates of candidates, and control the legislative actions of elected party representatives.
- Party platforms and legislative agendas of party candidates, on the whole, tend to be built around ideological and partisan preferences and priorities that the majority of voters do not share, primarily because their preferences tend to cross ideological and partisan lines, in what is termed “cross party consensus” (Stern, 2017).
- The frequent modus operandi used by these parties and their candidates to gain political and legislative power and influence is to fuel and even contrive conflicts — divisive, polarizing conflicts that create artificial divisions within electorates and extremist voting blocs, in order to win votes and elect party candidates. Once in office, party politicians and lawmakers continue fueling and contriving conflicts that often lead to legislative stalemates and paralysis.
- To win elections, they use political, legal and judicial mechanisms to legitimize acceptance of virtually unlimited and often largely undisclosed financial contributions from special interests. Once elected, they tend to favor special interests’ priorities over the needs, priorities and demands of their constituents.
- Many parties deliberately confuse voters, and distort their perceptions and understanding of political issues and legislative options, by monopolizing public discourse with false narratives and assertions, and by disseminating political propaganda through various mass media and social media channels.
- The mechanisms they use to disempower voters, electorally and legislatively, transforms them into passive spectators who are powerless to influence lawmakers’ political and legislative actions.
- They prohibit voters from instituting structural reforms that increase their autonomy and independence vis-a-vis political parties and central governments, or allow proliferating secession movements around the world to succeed.
- As has occurred in many states throughout the U.S., they create mechanisms for vote suppression and electoral fraud that include the following:
- They deliberately redraw (gerrymander) election district boundaries to create winning majorities of party voters in specific districts. They accomplish this objective by including voters in select districts who are likely to vote for their candidates, They exclude from select districts voters likely to vote against their candidates, and fragment opposing voting blocs by scattering their members throughout other districts in numbers too small to elect candidates opposing major party candidates.
- They pass laws and enact rules that make it difficult and financially costly for opposing parties and candidates to get on election ballots and mobilize sufficient numbers of voters to get elected.
- They create obstacles that prevent eligible voters from registering to vote and casting ballots. For example, parties and elected party representatives urge and even mandate election officials to require voters to provide documentation verifying their identity — documentation that many voters do not have and find it difficult or costly to obtain. They use a variety of mechanisms to legally and illegally remove the names of eligible voters from voting lists in order to assure the election of major party candidates. To reduce voter turnout, they decrease the number of official voting stations and place the remaining stations in locations that are difficult to access. They disseminate disinformation about who can vote, where to vote and how to cast votes.
- They utilize technologies for officially casting and counting ballots that falsify official tallies of votes cast, thereby enabling election officials to declare candidates to have won elections even though they have not received the most votes cast.
- They intimidate opposing candidates and their supporters through threats and violent acts, including assassinations.
The consequences of the actions and norms of undemocratic political parties include the following:
- Election of unaccountable and popularly unresponsive lawmakers who subordinate the needs, priorities and demands of their constituents to their own priorities and those of the special interests that finance lawmakers’ electoral campaigns.
- Failure to ensure that everyone has access to the basic necessities of life; protection from threats and risks to their lives, personal safety, and livelihoods; opportunities for advancement and life-long financial security.
- Provision of inequitable access to government services and resources.
- Use of their offices to enrich themselves through corrupt practices, for example through bribery, kickbacks, etc.
Proposed Remedies for Undemocratic Political Parties
The impact of undemocratic party practices on a broad range of institutions and processes is eliciting a wide range of proposed remedies. While many are promising and well-intentioned, many contain drawbacks.
“Good government” groups, political activists, foundations and philanthropists are proposing varous reforms, especially changes to electoral processes. Unfortunately, the legal and illegal mechanisms that undemocratic parties have devised to prevent voters from controlling elections and legislation have so systematically and systemically disempowered voters that piecemeal reform efforts to root out these mechanisms are unlikely to prove effective in the foreseeable future.
“Blaming the Victims”. The voters who have been disempowered electorally and legislatively by political parties and special interests are being told it is their responsibility to replace undemocratic governments by defeating incumbents and electing different lawmakers. Unfortunately, this solution is unlikely to work because voters are powerless to overturn the laws and mechanisms that undemocratic political parties and their candidates use to prevent voters from determining who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. Parties and lawmakers who use these mechanisms to get elected to office are unlikely to agree to change them.
Street Level Political Activism. Voters who have lost faith in their governments and electoral and legislative institutions and processes are being encouraged to engage in protests, confrontations, civil disobedience, and even extra-legal actions. These actions, which are being increasingly outlawed and heavily sanctioned, are being met with coercive and repressive actions by armed police and military troops. Opponents of the status quo in certain countries are being intimidated, injured, arrested and even assassinated.
New Parties within the Old Party Framework. New anti-establishment political parties comprised of dissatisfied voters are being formed in an increasing number of countries. But few have actually obtained enough votes to win control of governments. Often, they further fragment the electorate into splinter parties too small to win elections against establishment parties.
One of the hurdles that opposition parties face is that establishment parties have created election laws and practices that allow them to take control of their governments even though they received a minority of all votes cast. Many minority parties are able to take control of entire governments even if they received only 1/3 of all votes cast, typically by forming coalition governments with extremist minority parties. Together, without consulting the electorate, they adopt and enact legislative agendas that voters have not approved and may conflict significantly with voters’ needs, priorities and demands. These laws and practices create formidable obstacles to existing as well as newly created anti-establishment parties.
The Global Social Network for Voters. In contrast to the foregoing remedies, the network creates an entirely new democracy-building framework within which new political organizations can be created and operate. Voters will be able to play a leadership role in utilizing this framework by re-organizing existing parties to ensure they are democratically run by the voters they are intended to serve, and by creating, controlling, and democratically managing their own voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions.
In both cases, and contrary to undemocratic political parties’ tendencies to exacerbate and even contrive political conflicts in order to dividing voters into hostile camps and gain political influence, voters can use network consensus-building tools to resolve conflicts by uniting and organizing voters across ideological and partisan lines.
Unlike the efforts of undemocratic parties to corral voters into “no choice” elections, the network provides voters virtually unlimited choices with respect to running and electing their own candidates. It provides them tools for setting their legislative agendas; organizing politically to form online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions; and building consensus on priorities across the board with any and all participants in electoral and legislative processes.
- Their blocs, parties, and electoral coalitions can reach out to voters across the ideological and political spectrum to set common legislative agendas through online information gathering, sharing and evaluation; collective deliberation, debate and voting; nominations of candidates to run in actual elections; and get-out-the-vote campaigns to elect their candidates.
- They can forge large transpartisan electoral bases around transpartisan agendas that can outflank and outnumber the electoral base of any single political party and thereby defeat single party candidates.
- Most importantly, self-selected groups of citizens and voters can use the network’s voting utility to vote on any issues and decisions they wish, at any time, and in such overwhelming numbers that the results send clear messages to elected officials that disregard of the results might create risks and vulnerabilities with respect to their chances of re-election.
- Once the results of an election are announced, blocs, parties and coalitions hosted on the network that have similar priorities and legislative agendas can align with each other to work collaboratively together to take control of government. While they are in the process of forming a coalition government, they can invite their members to use network agenda setting tools to collectively set common legislative agendas for their government using the network’s voting utility.
At the present time, the primary drawback to leveraging the global potential of the Global Social Network for Voters is that most people have yet to realize that a single platform and technology can empower voters worldwide to create new democratically managed online political organizations capable of gaining control of elections and legislation.
IV. CAN U.S. VOTERS RE-INVENT THE U.S. POLITICAL PARTY SYSTEM?
To answer this question, the behavior patterns of the two major U.S. political parties require examination, as well as the causes of these patterns.
- It is noteworthy that both parties, the Democratic Party and Republican Party, have legally altered (gerrymandered) election district boundaries to such an extent that party voters are in the majority in almost 85% of Congressional election districts. This gerrymandering gives party-backed candidates unfair advantages over insurgent candidates and third party candidates.
- The two parties are largely responsible for election laws, regulations and practices that enable major party to get elected and take control of federal, state and local legislative bodies even when they receive a minority of all votes cast the votes.
- Decades ago, the two major parties led efforts to remove recall laws at state level that had entitled voters to recall their elected representatives from office.
- Unlike parliamentary forms of government, U.S. laws and practices do not permit “snap elections” or votes of “no confidence” that lead of the “fall” of party-controlled governments.
- It has been reported that legal and illegal vote suppression mechanisms, including those used by the two major parties, keep so many eligible voters from voting in so many states that they have swayed election outcomes.
- The U.S. judicial branch of government, the U.S. Electoral College, U.S. election laws and regulations, and U.S. electoral processes controlled by the two major parties, make it possible for a U.S. president to take office without receiving a majority of votes cast.
- Even if a U.S. president engages in what appear to be illegal acts, voters have no effective mechanisms for directly removing the president from office during his term. Nor do they have effective mechanisms for compelling their elected representatives to remove a U.S. president.
- Gerrymandering, the major parties’ control of U.S. electoral processes, and voters’ lack of control of electoral processes, make it unlikely that voters can elect a sufficient number of new Congressional representatives in by-elections to oust a president during his/her tenure.
- Even though the number of voters who have officially registered to vote — but not as members of either of the two major US parties — is larger than those registered in either party, the voters registered outside the two major parties are not allowed to participate in most major party primaries that decide which candidates will be on the general election ballot.
- As a result, the large majority of voters who are not registered in either major party, are convinced that in order not to waste their votes, they must choose between the major parties’ candidates on the general election ballot — even though a) they did not place these candidates on the ballot, b) the candidates are running on platforms and agendas over which voters exerted little influence, and c) the candidates are likely to enact legislation that ignores the needs and priorities of these voters.
What magnifies the non-competitiveness of U.S. elections even further is the fact that even if minor parties and candidates emerge to oppose the candidates of the two major U.S. parties, what might occur in the process is that the electoral base of voters opposed to the major parties might be fractured into losing splinter groups that cannot win elections.
Similarly, given the the two major parties’ quasi-monopolistic control of U.S. electoral institutions and processes, it appears likely that rival political groupings seeking to run candidates against major party candidates will lack effective electoral mechanisms for unifying their supporters behind a common slate of candidates.
Alternatives are few. For example, each rival group will find it difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize a critical mass of voters with sufficient voting strength to run candidates for federal or state office who can defeat the candidates of the two major parties. They will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get their candidates on the primary or general ballots of either of the two major parties.
And, per another alternative, even if a rival group could get candidates on their own primary and general election ballots by registering new political parties in the 50 states, or by aligning with existing “third” parties, the two major parties would try to exclude them from high profile debates, and encourage the mass media and special interest campaign donors to ignore them as well.
In light of the foregoing, and returning to the initial question, it appears unlikely that U.S. voters will be able to re-invent the U.S. political party system until the Global Social Network for Voters is fully operational. At that time, they will have the tools they need to redesign and re-organize the two major parties, as well as transform the entire structure of political organizing in the U.S.. by building, controlling and democratically managing their own voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions around transpartisan legislative agendas and electoral bases large enough to win elections.
Post-Script: Additional reasons for pessimism regarding this short term impossibility are the efforts currently being conducted on several fronts to implement more numerous and effective mechanisms of vote suppression, including vote hacking by unknown hackers that may include foreign agends. The current U.S. Congress and U.S. president do not appear to be in the process of initiating any potentially effective mechanisms for preventing the various types of interference in elections that have already been detected. This danger is especially worrisome because so many states use e-voting technologies that can be electronically manipulated to alter voter registration files and vote tallies.
The Global Social Network for Voters provides voters worldwide a unique consensus-building platform for overcoming the conflicts and stalemates that current forms of representative democracy appear unable to surmount because they lack effective consensus-building mechanisms that cross ideological and partisan lines.
These forms include traditional institutions, such as political parties controlled from the “top down”, which are provoking widespread voter dissatisfaction and opposition by electorally and legislatively disempowering voters.
The network’s Interactive Voter Choice System empowers voters to build new political parties that are democratically controlled from the “bottom up”. This technology also empowers voters to re-organize existing undemocratic political parties to ensure they are controlled by the voters they are intended to serve.
The network’s consensus-building platform will create a common ground in cyberspace where voters and elected representatives, political parties and electoral candidates can collectively define, share, and reconcile divergent legislative priorities. Voters will play a catalytic role in promoting consensus-building by using the system’s agenda setting, consensus-building and political organizing tools to form online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions around priorities and legislative agendas that cross ideological and partisan lines.
This new genre of voter-controlled political organization will spontaneously spark continuous outreach to voters and non-voters across the spectrum, and take advantage of the fact that most voters’ priorities cross ideological and partisan lines. This transpartisan outreach will make it possible for voters’ blocs, parties and coalitions to forge such large transpartisan electoral bases that they will be able to outflank and outnumber the electoral bases of traditional parties, and thereby determine who runs for office, who wins elections, and what laws are passed.
The voter-empowering paradigm shifts made possible by the network’s technology will pave the way toward the next step in the evolution of government “by and for the people” in the 21st century. For these shifts will enable voters to oversee, direct and supplement the efforts of the small numbers of lawmakers who currently formulate, enact and implement legislation in the name of millions of constituents, even though they lack systematic mechanisms for finding out what are their constituents’ priorities across the board, and reconciling divergent priorities.
The network’s technology also takes advantage of the well-documented “wisdom of the crowd”. For it enables virtually unlimited numbers of voters, within and across nation-state boundaries, to join forces online to create the “collective intelligence” they need to make more informed decisions than the far smaller numbers of lawmakers elected to represent them.
Most significantly, the Global Social Network for Voters and the Interactive Voter Choice System will create the world’s first large-scale political consensus-building platform. It will enable voters around the world to join forces to devise and implement urgently needed policies that lawmakers are failing to enact for protecting the well-being of their constituents and overcoming life-threatening risks. These escalating risks include the devastation caused by extreme climate disruption and the injuries and loss of life caused by the global spread of asymmetric warfare.
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