I don’t approve of voting in elections, but my lost of faith stems not always from giving up my own freedoms to a so-called “leader” — it also comes from my belief that the current voting system makes no sense. Would I change my stance on voting if democracy was more competitive? Doubtful, but I certainly would be more supportive of the system if fairness was involved.
Why modern democracy is wrong
For me, voting should be more like Christmas shopping than grocery shopping. When we need groceries, most of us tend to pick one store and stick with it. Even if eggs or cuts of beef might be cheaper at another grocer, we’ll still stock up on all we need at just one store because it’s quicker and easier. Christmas shopping, on the other hand, is about visiting many stores of different types in different areas — it’s very hard to get all your Christmas shopping done at just one store or from one website.
Voting today is like the first form of shopping: we put all our voting power into trying to elect just one candidate, even if there are other candidates we might like, just not as much as the one we’re pushing for. If voting was more like Christmas shopping, it would be more “fair” — not just to the voters, but also to the fringe candidates that get lost in the monopolistic nature of current democracy: all your voting power, focused on one candidate.
How the system works right now
Let me give an example based on today’s current primary election system for the Republican nomination for President. We have somewhere between 5 and 10 candidates who are running in the primaries to be the one (“monopoly”) candidate on the Republican side of the President ballot next November. It doesn’t matter if you happen to love one candidate and really like 2 more: your vote in the primaries is for one candidate. Whoever gets the most votes goes on as the sole, monopoly candidate to run against The Obama. Democrats only get that one choice, Republicans in November (when it “counts”) only get one choice. It’s like having only two stores in town that you can buy Christmas gifts from, and when it comes down to making the actual purchase, you’re only allowed to buy from one store or other other, but not from both. It’s a monopoly on your decision-making process.
How the system can be changed for the better
Here’s an idea that would make voting more democratic — open up the choices of the voters. Give them plenty of stores to buy from, and let them make their decision reflect the many options available to them before the primaries.
First, get rid of primary elections. Allow any candidate who can amass a certain number of signatures in each state to get on the actual, final November ballot. If this means there are 6 Democratic candidates and 9 Republican candidates, so be it. Voters should be versed in all of the candidate’s positions — today’s voting structure in the real election is more about punching a vote based on a picture or single letter (D, R, I, L). That lets even uninformed voters have power over those like me who don’t vote — yet we are informed.
If you want to keep the ballots simple, only allow the top 10 candidates based on total signatures to be on a ballot. Don’t worry about their political parties — if a ballot has 8 Republicans and 2 Democrats in your state, it’s because those Republicans amassed the most signatures over the Democrats. This is more fair, more democratic. This also lets independents and third parties on the final ballot.
Second, when it comes time to vote, don’t require people to vote for only one candidate per office seat. There should be no limit to how many candidates a person can say they like. Just like Christmas shopping doesn’t restrict you to just one store, a competitive democratic system should allow the voters to say “Hey, I like Obama, but I also like Gingrich.” Let the voter pick as many as they want to vote for — even every candidate or none.
Third, the candidate that gets the most votes in each state wins that state’s electoral votes. We’re assuming the electoral college won’t go away here, but it makes sense to see what the true pulse of the voters is, and base the win on that. This allows even third party or independent candidates to get a vote of support from voters. People may want to vote for Ralph Nader, but they might be so afraid of “losing” to a Republican that they cast their vote for their second favorite — Obama. That’s the problem with monopoly democracy: you may really love to buy your eggs from one grocery and your steak from another, but if you’re not given the chance, you’ll end up with something you don’t like enough. Why not offer the option?
Why competition matters
Today’s democracy is more than an utter failure: it’s designed the way it is to give the public a circus act that makes them think they’re actually making a difference. Because such weight is placed on the primaries to “select the best”, once it comes time to actually vote, the public feels like they’re voting for the best on “their team.” The idea that the best candidate is the one chosen by “their team” is just accepted, because of the value placed on the democratic process.
In reality, the candidate that wins the primaries is only really liked by a small percentage of the overall voting population. If the Republican candidate who wins overall only took 35% of the vote in each primary, and if 45% of overall voters are Republican, you’re looking at future President who only really jives with 15% of the population initially. Is this who the voters really want to run the country, or is it the lesser of two evils?
Switch to allowing multiple people from any party to run for office, and allowing one voter to pick any or all of the candidates as their choice, and all of a sudden, the lessers of two evils falls away. Instead, the one fringe candidate that everyone seems to like (but no one believes will win) could very well end up being the guy who actually does win.
Today’s primary and limited general election choices is the actual definition of “wasting a vote.” No matter how rabid a voter is for a particular candidate, when it comes time to physically punch their ballot, they’re going to pick the candidate who is most likely to get “their team” a win come election day. This means they might pick their second or fourth choice candidate, but it’s still an unrealistic way to keep power in the most powerful. Where is the fairness in it?
By allowing people multiple choices, you’re giving the voters the fairest power to make a decision. You’re not forcing their hand into a monopoly decision. Even better, you’re completely destroying the power of the media to be biased, since people will feel relief over the pressure of trying to discern which sole candidate they support. Some voters may not even vote along party lines, looking deeper at the issues. Nothing would prevent a voter from saying they would support Obama first, Ron Paul second, Ralph Nader third: and voting for all three, knowing they’ve been given true decision making power through competitive means.
Sadly, nothing will change
Will this even happen? Of course not. Covering the primaries is a big income generator for the media — it also gives the media power in being biased. Forcing the voting public in the general election to pick one team or another takes all the power away from the individual voters and gives it directly to the political parties and the PACs themselves: you only want your team to win, even if the win means little. Monopoly voting also means that the worst candidates tend to be elected to office.
My style of competitive democracy would mean a total change in how campaigns are run. It would mean that candidates would have a reason to go out and interact with real voters — it means that their previous voting record would actually mean something, as the most evil candidates would no longer have the ultimate power given to them by the media, the political party leadership and the PACs.
Will it happen? Of course not. Voting is a joke. Voting is just a way to give the general pubic their own curtain to hang in front of the man controlling the machine. Some people pick a red curtain, some people pick a blue curtain, but there are only 2 curtains to choose from, and all the curtain chosen does it hide the real machinery of power from the voters who truly believe they made a difference.