A country sets up elections that offer citizens two sharply oppositional and polarizing choices of leadership. Alternative candidates are strong-armed and frozen out of the process. Their voices are stifled. This results in the election of a candidate reviled by a large portion of the electorate.
The new government proves to be ineffectual and is further paralyzed by oppositional forces from within its own ranks. Tension and violence arise in a sharply divided society. International political pundits all offer the same words: “Democracy means more than just holding elections.”
The ill conceived electoral process to which I am referring is our own. While Egyptians are out on the streets struggling to take back their country, here in the US, we complacently allow the two major parties to run their own elections, stage their own “debates,” and write their own self-serving legislation while we stand by and acquiesce to stagnant and ineffective governance.
In my home state of Pennsylvania, we have closed primary elections, no Initiative and Referendum, and unfair ballot access laws which make it virtually impossible for independent and third party candidates to get their names on ballots. These are just a few of the ways in which the major parties are complicit in taking the power away from the electorate and sharing it between themselves.
Independent voters, who comprise over 40% of the national electorate, need to let their voices be heard loud and clear. We are the force that can push for real progressive reforms in our electoral processes. For our government to be responsive, accountable, and effective, we need to have more independent voices heard, more independent choices offered, more independent conversations.
Before we look down our noses at the state of affairs in foreign lands, we should take a serious look at our own electoral process and do what we can to fix it. Democracy is more than just holding elections.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
i'm hungering for a comprehensive study of closed primary systems and the sheer numbers of independent Americans denied a voice by a partisan strangehold on electoral procedures...how many states have a closed primary system? All I can think of off the top of my head are New Jersey, Florida, and Pennsylvania
If it's true that self-conscious independents are more than 40% of the electorate, that block of voters could easily take power in the nation if it would put its own nominees on the general election ballot. In a 3-way contest between a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent, the independent ought to win if the independent has the loyalty of 40% of the voters and the remaining vote would be split. Senator Mike Folmer has a Pennsylvania ballot access bill, SB 195, that would make ballot access far easier for independent candidates.
I think as Independents we should demand open primaries. Put it to a referandum and let the people decide if we want more than 2 parties involved with the election process. What's it going to take ?
Senator Folmer's Voters Choice bill has languished in Harrisburg for years with little to no support from his fellow legislators. The same fate has befallen more than one open primaries bill. Independents need to urge their representatives to support these bills by bringing them to committee and to a vote. Without significant pressure, Rep. and Dem. senators have no reason to support bills that would take away their advantages.
So long as the primary is a partisan-based structure, the self-consciousness of the voters will not be expressed until the real election, the primary, is over.
@ray_kerstetter it just seems like a matter of principle, if you're going to be representing the entire district, shouldnt every voter have an equal opportunity to have their voice heard? Party labels should be irrelevant.
Agreed, but not only is it about getting independents and other parties more competitive, but it's also about having Dems and Reps who might be more representative of the people than the party base. Love the discussion on electoral reforms, though!