We are not red and blue. We are not Republicans and Democrats — it is impossible to define our political reality within this frame. Our country has been captured by two private political clubs which rule us from local election boards to the Supreme Court. The American electorate, however, rejects the parties. Only 20% of the electorate join each faction.
The two parties are exactly what James Madison warned us about in Federalist #10:
“Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.”
Most Americans Can’t Vote in State Primaries & Few Do
Most eligible voters who don’t pull the lever for Democrats or Republicans could not vote in their state primary.
Why are our state primaries provided by the people, for two private political clubs, while locking most Americans out of choosing our candidates? Even “open” primaries require a voter to pick one ticket or the other — Democrat or Republican. Party power is the biggest source of voter suppression in the US.
We say it often, and loud, “The system is rigged for the elite! It doesn’t matter if I vote.” This sentiment is too true. We should not have to sign on to one of the two major private parties to vote! Voter registration and voter turnout is notoriously low in the US…many have given up on a system that does not serve them.
Nation-wide, on average, 20% of those allowed to vote in primaries do — at most about 50%. This means that a scant 8–20% of the electorate choose our candidates.
Six states — Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota, Maine, and Nevada, have primary voter turnout less than 10%, meaning a mere 2–4% of the electorate in those states choose candidates.
This is not representative democracy, it is tyranny!
In the end, at the general election, roughly half of registered voters cast a ballot, meaning only 35% of the U.S. electorate show up to vote for “the lesser of two evils,” who a few party voters have chosen for us.
We Can Change How We Choose Our Candidates
There is a storm of finger pointing about why our U.S. political system is failing, and many wrongheaded solutions offered: “democratizing” the economy and anti-capitalism; eliminating the Electoral College; proportional representation; ranked choice voting; and lottery elections, among them. But, anti-capitalism infringes on individual rights; eliminating the EC erodes federalism, and the human right of self-determination; proportional representation has a limited ability to affect inequalities and creates factions which encourage ethnic conflict; ranked choice voting can lead to less than 50% of the population actually choosing the candidate for president; and lottery elections take away the people’s right to choose their own leaders.
If we don’t figure out another way, our apathy could pound the final nails into freedom’s coffin. With the parties small, and weak internally, but immanently powerful over the government and our elections (thanks to legislation written by the parties themselves), we are at risk of being overrun by tyrants who get in through the parties, and take over the nation. We have already seen the Tea Party take over the Republicans, and left-wing extremists capturing the Democrats.
The parties are not in the Constitution, and we do not have to organize our elections by them and for them. We can organize our elections anyway we choose, in each state.
I propose a simple solution — democratize elections (is there a more sensible idea for the U.S.?).
We need a fully public, fully publicly funded election infrastructure that does not favor parties. What might this look like? A people centered election infrastructure could have tiered county/state/national primary circuits; open ballots; public debate stages, local to national; bracketed debates; equal public media time for candidates; and open primaries.
Imagine, instead of caucuses being led by private parties in few states and meandering around the country, caucuses start in your county, lifting local leaders up as candidates for president. Instead of impossible ballot access rules, legislated by private parties in congress, ballots are open. Instead of a private primary infrastructure exclusive to Democrats and Republicans, we have a public primary infrastructure that serves all of the people.
We can eliminate public money, rules, and roles that favor parties, while allowing them to enter a single candidate at each county level, with everyone else. Candidates who win their county primaries would face off at the state level, and state winners would face off on the national circuit. This sort of bracketed competition — that culls winners through tiered local, state, and national levels — is common. Can we use it for our elections?
Perhaps, if we had a public election infrastructure like this, we could lift leaders out of our communities whom we want to vote for, end the decades long grid-lock in congress, and remove big money from elections.
How would this new system remove big money? By providing a public infrastructure that gives candidates free ballot access, debate infrastructure, and media time.
Could self-interested parties still raise billions and buy up ads? Yes, but that behavior would be in stark relief against the virtue of an accessible public system. Americans are furious with money in politics, and the power of self-interested factions now, but what choice do we have in the current private party-centered system?
We do not need to change our form of government, amend the constitution, nor take away the people’s right to choose their own leaders — we simply need to move our resources from a private-party centered election system, which disenfranchises most Americans, to a public election system that enfranchises everyone.
One way or another, we have to put the power of choosing our candidates with the people — all of the people.
We don’t want Democrat or Republican candidates!
This darkness has got to end.
*originally penned May 2020
Originally published at https://www.klbwriting.com.