America The Possible, Part II
Continued from previous page
Glocalism -- Despite the many ways life will be more local, and the resulting temptation toward parochialism and provincialism, Americans will feel a sense of belonging and citizenship at larger levels of social and political organization, and will support global-level governance in the numerous areas where it is needed, such as environmental issues.
It is simply unimaginable that American politics as we know it today will deliver the transformative changes needed. Political reform and building a new and powerful progressive movement in America must be priority number one. Above all else, we must build a new democratic reality—a government truly of, by, and for the people.
A foundation of democracy is the principle that all citizens should have a right to participate as equals in the actual process of governing. All should have a right to vote, to have access to relevant information, to speak up, associate with others, and participate. Votes should count equally, the majority should prevail, subject to respect for basic rights, and the issues taken up should be the important ones society faces. These are ideals by which America’s current situation as well as our political reform agenda should be judged. Viewed this way, we are coming up far short on democracy and political equality. What we are seeing instead is the steady emergence of plutocracy and corporatocracy.
That the list of most-needed reforms to our political system is so long is testimony to how flawed the current system actually is.
• We need to both expand and protect the process of voting. Voter registration should be the default position: upon reaching the age of eighteen, citizens would be automatically registered, as is common in advanced democracies. Once registered, voting can be made easier in a number of ways: early voting should be extended; election day should be made a national holiday; ballots should be made simpler and voting less confusing; and campaigns to discourage and suppress voting through intimidating and deceptive practices should be prohibited and penalized. A national elections commission should be charged with providing for election administration and monitoring by impartial and well-trained election officials; for certification and testing of voting machines; for voter-verified paper trails to serve as the official ballots for recounts and audits; and generally for the integrity and accuracy of the voting process.
• We need a constitutional amendment to provide for direct popular election of the president. As long as that remains a bridge too far, state legislatures should agree to assign all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate winning the national popular vote for president, but only if and when enough states make the commitment to total at least 270 electoral votes (the number needed to win in the Electoral College). Thus far nine states—including California, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, and Massachusetts—with half the electoral votes needed to win, have made such pledges. Another way to bring more democracy to presidential elections would be to increase House membership by 50 percent, a good idea in its own right.
• Reform of our current system of primary elections is also in order. There are many possibilities here, but a key goal is to broaden participation in primaries beyond each party’s core. One way to do that is to have structured open primaries—where registered independents can vote in either party’s primary.
• The partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts should be stopped. District lines should be drawn by independent, nonpartisan commissions.
• We need to break the two-party duopoly. To do that, we need a process for voting that will encourage third parties without making them spoilers, will ensure that every vote counts in the end result and is not wasted, and will ensure that winners have the support of the majority of voters. This would be accomplished by instant-runoff voting (IRV), the process by which voters rank the candidates in order of preference. Low-scoring candidates—often third-party ones—are eliminated in the vote counting, and their voters’ second choices are added to those that remain until one candidate has a majority. Even more attractive, fusion voting allows a minority party to list as its candidate on the ballot the candidate of another party. Fusion thus allows third parties to bargain with the two major parties for the best representation they can get.