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.