I know what you are thinking. How could the democratic process have possibly won in 2016? If anything, the 2016 elections showed just how much control two private political corporations — the Republican and Democratic Parties — have over elections. And you are right. It did.
However, 2016 proved something else: Voters, fed up with the status quo, can make a difference.
When it comes to elections in the U.S., the two major parties are practically omnipotent. From deciding which voters can participate in the primary election process, to controlling which candidates get to be in presidential debates, to the two-sided narrative we get in the mainstream media, the Republican and Democratic Parties have manufactured a two-party system that makes it almost impossible for alternative voices and ideas to be heard and compete.
ALSO READ: Why Political Parties Control Elections
Yet, more and more people are waking up to this reality, and realizing that the current system doesn’t serve voters, first. It puts the interests of two private corporations first.
Consider for a moment what happened this year:
- Regardless of what one thinks of his candidacy, an anti-establishment candidate (Donald Trump), running on a populist message and rejected by leaders of both major parties defied the odds and won the presidency. (See: Independent Voters Flipped The Entire Presidential Election to Trump)
- The candidacy of another anti-establishment candidate (Bernie Sanders), running on his own populist message, exposed the institutional forces and barriers that are in place specifically to prevent anyone but the party-anointed candidate from winning. (See: DNC Emails Show Private Parties Control Elections, Not Voters)
- Level the Playing Field‘s lawsuit challenging the bipartisan scheme to keep independent and third-party candidates out of presidential debates will be heard in federal court. (See: Oral Argument Granted for Lawsuit Against Debate Commission)
- Maine became the first state to move past the choose one, plurality voting method used by every other state in the U.S. for statewide elections, and has adopted ranked choice voting. (See: Ranked Choice Voting Advocates Celebrate Historic Victory in Maine)
- Colorado voters ditched the caucus system for presidential primary elections and adopted open primaries for presidential and other statewide elections. (See: Colorado Opens Primary Elections to 1.3 Million Independent Voters)
- In San Diego, California, voters passed two measures (Measures K and L) that ensure crucial citywide elections are decided when the most voters participate. (See: Independent Voter Project Successful in Effort to Expand San Diego Voter Participation)
Throughout the year, it was not uncommon to see frustrated voters write or hear people talk about how disenchanted and disenfranchised they felt about the election. There are many voters who feel like their vote doesn’t count or doesn’t matter in the end.
Much of it is a systemic problem — a systemic problem that was largely exposed during the 2016 election cycle. For the first time, many voters were enlightened to the inner workings of the DNC and RNC, and how rules and procedures are changed or manipulated to favor the party-anointed candidate.
READ MORE: From Superdelegates to Brokered Conventions, Both Parties Really Don’t Care What Voters Think
Voters learned about superdelegates, brokered conventions, voter purges, confusing and impractical voter registration rules, restrictive primary election laws, and bipartisan debate rules that were crafted by party bosses to maintain exclusive control over the democratic process.
But to the voters who think their vote doesn’t matter, you are wrong. More Americans than ever are tired of establishment politics. They want change, and when the opportunity is presented to them, they will vote for that change and can make a difference.
Voters outside the two major parties cannot be marginalized. The growing dissatisfaction with the duopolistic status quo can no longer be ignored. The movement to make elections more representative and more accountable to voters is growing fast, and it is shaking up political systems across the country.
On the surface, 2016 may not seem like a win for democracy for some, but look deeper. Voters made a difference. They challenged the political establishment and in many instances, won. Democracy was a big winner this year.