Our liberal democracy is becoming more illiberal and less democratic. Our choices this past November were between two candidates who were both disliked by the majority of Americans. Congress has a 16% approval rating, but almost a 100% incumbent reelection rate in the House of Representatives.
The system is rigged and corrupt.
Nevertheless, I am optimistic. We can fix it.
Step 1: Understand the Process
It’s undeniable that we, independent thinkers, face an uphill battle in a rigged process, but at its core our government still has a democratic framework. We possess the tools necessary to take control of the government by democratic means, institute electoral reform to make our elections competitive, elect magnanimous people who are mindful of the responsibility of governing, and begin restoring our government back to stability.
Saving the democracy is a three-phase process: 1) obtain power, 2) reform the democratic process, and 3) fix the actual government. These steps cannot happen out of order because they build on each other.
It’s not really possible to overstate the urgency of our situation.
The window in which we have to work is closing as the power of our vote continues to be gutted through redistricting, more onerous registration requirements, and statutory obstacles that thwart independent candidates from competing fairly. We do not have the luxury of chasing unrealistic goals or paths that lead to nowhere. We must unite behind one political strategy with specific achievable goals.
Step 2: Set The Initial Goal- Obtain Power
Power is the ability to influence the course of events. People holding positions of great power, the presidency, congress, governors, state legislatures, and mayors of some major cities, shape the direction we move as a country. Those are the positions we need to target.
We should abandon any movement that does not that directly further the goal of getting good people into those offices. Our resources are limited and we cannot afford to have them diverted to low-level positions or symbolic victories.
If the activism you are engaging is not directly tied to getting a good candidate elected to one of the great power positions, then you are either working on a diversion or are working in the wrong phase of the process.
Diversions are activism for which the expenditure of resources outweighs the potential influence that can be asserted from the position. Trying to reform the Democratic Party, trying to build a new party, and working on local campaigns are all examples of diversions because they require an enormous investment of time and resources, but do not confer meaningful power.
An example of working in the wrong phase, is organizing and attending rallies to reform an industry, such as healthcare, criminal justice, or immigration, without first having good people elected to positions of real power.
That is phase 3, fixing the actual government, and we cannot get there until we have control of the government. The resources going into those efforts are wasted- at this time.
The people who hold positions of great power understand what is at stake. That is why they have rigged the system to make it easier for them to maintain their power. It’s why they encourage you to “work your way up” and “focus on local government.” Disregard the mantra that you must start local and work your way up. That advice is coming from people who occupy positions of actual power telling you to focus on positions with the illusion of power.
It is a diversion.
We do not have anywhere near the same resources that powerful people have. We do not have the money, powerful allies, benefits of incumbency, or benefits of political party support. We only have each other, but that’s enough.
Our votes are more powerful than money, incumbency, or political party support. Our voices, if united, can overcome these obstacles. But we have to be strategic. You cannot march into battle without a clear objective and a strategy. The ultimate goal is reforming the government, but there are important milestones that we must hit before we can do that. This column will provide a step-by- step guide on how to move forward through each phase and save the democracy.