This week’s writer is Liam Madden. The Bellows Falls resident is a Marine veteran who became the leader of the largest US anti-war organization for Iraq/Afghanistan veterans and won the MIT “Solve” award for organizations creating solutions to climate change.
Most of us need not be convinced that the two-party system is incapable of solving our challenges. Mutual disgust with the effectiveness and corruption of this system happens to be one of the few remaining areas of agreement between left and right. (This is an important and inspiring fact that I will link to our solutions later.) She calls out, “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
The most obvious reason for our dissatisfaction, and the reason why two-thirds of us think the system is broken, is that our major problems continue to fester: declining health and rising health care costs, a shortage of affordable housing, accelerating inequality, an economy based on no-ending growth and accelerating resource depletion; Don’t care about really serious threats like environmental devastation leading to mass refugee crises, or technologies like artificial intelligence or weapons on a large scale in the wrong hands.
Another reason I think most of us are tired is because we see topics that both sides can always agree on. Perhaps a better definition of insanity would be the list of unspoken agreements between the two parties, such things as: keeping the war machine well fed, pleasing billionaires, giving special treatment to special interests, and—especially—making sure that no one threatens the fist of the two parties—and their companions—with death. over our governmental authority.
There is a way out. I’ll get there, but give me another moment to remind us why it is so important that we free ourselves from this stranglehold on our republic, our democracy, whatever you want to call it.
First of all, the parties do not represent us. Most of us have major disagreements with the party platforms of the main party that we happen to ally with more, and therefore vote a little more often. However, these important disagreements get lost, nuances get lost, and the best possible solutions to problems are overlooked when there is a life nuance.
And … the two-party system separates us from each other. For example, President Trump did not represent most Republicans. In most primaries, he won less than 40% of the “core” Republican vote (a total of 4% of the population made Trump the Republican villain in the Lesser Evil contest). However, it became their only option in the general election, accelerating the polarization process even though most Republicans did not actually favor his political platform. This is a corollary of the two-party system, it pushes us toward extremes — making good problem-solving nearly impossible.
Finally, the political engineers of our country have foreseen the dangers of the two-party system. George Washington said, “The alternative domination of one faction over another, honed by a spirit of revenge … is itself a fearsome tyranny.” John Adams agreed, adding that “dividing the Republic into two great parties … must be feared as the great political evil.”
So, it sucks. We know it’s bad. They told us it was bad. But what are we going to do? The two parties have the strength and crush those who oppose them.
First, let’s review what isn’t working. What every politician will say is, “Yes, we’re in big trouble, yes, the system is broken, but just vote for me.” What he means here is that this is a war and not a cooperative endeavor, and let us only control those who disagree with us. They ask us, help us do it. But our experience teaches us that helping one party win does not work, even if we feel entitled to control the minority and make it irrelevant.
Then there’s the other thing that we know doesn’t work, the naive bipartisan nonsense, “Vote for me, I’m in the middle and I’ll bring both sides together.” These people may think they are charismatic or so diplomatic that their efforts are enough to unite the scattered continents of a system that is structurally designed to polarize our politics. They are naive if this is what they think will solve this situation. So we are naive to believe them.
Then what to do? First of all, the founders of our government structure built the foundation of this system when information travels at the speed of horseback. It is now traveling at the speed of light. Maybe, just maybe, upgrading our government design to accommodate technology responsibly is part of the answer here.
But how can technology help improve our government? Well, I’m glad I asked, so I can go ahead and answer now: I call this concept the Online Democracy Forum. I can explain it very well in three steps.
1. Use technology to gather input from the public soon At present – Not every 2-4 years, when we choose between the lesser of two evils. Use technology to formally allow the public to inform and decide on policy more frequently than in current election cycles. If American Idol gets feedback on show night to determine a winner, we can learn how to get ideas for making our lives better for government faster every two years.
2. Create an easy-to-use, yet technically complex, online “Democracy Forum” (with appropriate safeguards to prevent corruption and fraud) where the public can submit and modify proposals for policy solutions. Policy measures that reach a certain high threshold of public support, particularly support across the ideological spectrum, are automatically put to lawmakers for targeted action. If the support is large enough, politics can completely bypass politicians.
Steps 1 and 2 above give citizens more power, but it won’t necessarily help them make a wiser, more compassionate policy. Just because a lot of people want something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This is the purpose of the third step.
3. Make the most of the collective wisdom of the audience by building a democracy forum with the same technological power that is currently highlighting, confirming and popularizing the most divisive and polarizing ideas in social media, except pointing that technology in the opposite direction. Use AI-powered social media algorithms to accelerate empathy, maturity, shared understanding, and other virtues that create a context in which solutions can be improved and revealed the level of support and efficacy of solutions produced by the existing system. We need contexts where we feel safe from being vulnerable in order to actually work together.
As it stands now, improvement in politics tends to end once the majority is reached, and often the entire problem-solving process is based on wrong choices between values (such as protecting the planet versus improving the quality of life) that are not in fact mutually exclusive.
The final advantage of this system is to allow people who have achieved a great deal of public trust and expertise in certain areas (think of how different hosts on AirBnB or sellers on Amazon give public scores on relevant criteria) to have a disproportionate influence on policy in those areas.
These steps are not a comprehensive map to reviving democracy, but they do serve as a viable starting point. a plan. It is not a replacement for Congress or the Constitution, but rather a necessary update.
All of the above is how we begin the revival of democracy. It is at the level of our collective institutions. But our rebirth will be stillbirth if we do not simultaneously use the same mindset, embrace technology — to radically improve our personal level tools, our empathy, our rigorous meaning-making abilities, our listening, our perspective-taking abilities. Democracy can only last when there is health for the individual And collective scale.
So, my argument is that government reform cannot be done by choosing a side and voting for the lesser of two evils, nor can it be done by voting for moderates. This should be done by setting your primary voting criteria – stabilizing government at the root cause level – first and foremost. This should become a clear test for each candidate, “Do you support the Forum for Direct Democracy? What is your stance on reviving democracy?” If they are independents, much better.
If you would like to see a candidate focused on bringing structural innovations into our government, and innovations that actually integrate the ideas of the public, you can support my independent campaign for Congress. With an open race, and no incumbent, now is the perfect time to question the bipartisan death grip on our democracy. This is a campaign and a cause that actually unites across the lines of political division.
I am a Marine veteran and became the leader of the largest anti-war organization in Iraq/Afghanistan. Then I became an entrepreneur, winning a “Solve” award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for organizations creating solutions to climate change. I’m a working-class Vermont father and citizen who cares about our ability to solve problems together. Send me to Congress and I will continue to devote my life to the service of the most beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
Many will say it’s better to have a candidate with “experience”, which I’m answering, do we really need more same-minded experience? Doesn’t this experience mean that these candidates will continue to rely on outdated tools that are insufficient to the scale of our problems? Do we value the experience of a physician who is experienced in misdiagnosing disease and prescribing medical aids? We need innovation and vision more than experience.
If you are satisfied with the aids on bandages and changing players, you have some good choices in this election. If you know in your heart that we need to change the rules of the game, you have one clear choice. Let’s revive democracy together.