Category Archives: representative democracy vs. actual democracy

Is Representative Democracy Dying in America?


Although it is wonderful to live in a democracy and although we wish our government was even more representative than it is, the feedback we are hearing about Syria makes one wish for a temporary side trip into the old days when people were rarely asked their opinion about anything. If you wanted to be heard, you wrote an editorial for the newspaper or you sent a letter to Congress or the President. With 24/7 news, if you were listening this weekend, you heard every possible opinion about what President Obama should or shouldn’t do about Syria. Every person who uttered an opinion was terribly serious, terribly confident and terribly sure they did not like the President’s strategy. Almost without exception the only thing everyone could agree about is that Obama is a wimp and his is making America look wimpy. But, if you listened carefully, it really didn’t sound as if anyone had any idea about what America should do, or, that there are so many different views of what America should do that the resulting cacophony obscures reasoned response.

————– Obama should have struck immediately (although we probably would impeach him)
————– Obama was right to wait for Congress, but he lost all effectiveness

————– We want Obama to ask Congress for permission to attack but we intend to say no

————– We do believe Assad used chemical weapons

————– We don’t believe Assad used chemical weapons

————– This is like Iraq all over again

————– This is nothing like Iraq

————– Will a quick strike be effective? Yes

————– Will a quick strike be effective? No

————– Obama should have realized that his first thought was best (we love a grand gesture)

————– We’ll end up being drawn into war

————– We could end up at war with Iran or, even Russia

Listening to everyday people is still done mostly through polls, although we now also have tweets. The ordinary citizens polled seem to be against the attack. It is obvious that in a democracy you cannot listen to every opinion in America, although Lord knows we have tried to on this particular issue. The microphones have been clipped to and the question put to, anyone who has ever had any kind of military power in the region or who could in any conceivable way have any expertise on the subject, or anyone who is a member of Congress or ever has been.

In a democracy there has to be a structure for arriving at an official opinion that is responsive to the people and there is. But it’s broken. Because Congress refuses to act, Obama has been including the views of ordinary citizens more than most administrations ever have. But it seems the voices of Americans are too many, too varied, and too chaotic to attend to. If citizens are to speak we need a structure for speaking  that works better than tweeting. Although tweets are interesting in that they explain rationales or feelings, they do not constitute an accurate roll call of the majority decision Americans would make on an issue. Congress, you need to get your act together and do your job or perhaps we need to move away from representative democracy to actual democracy by letting us vote about issues using our computers.

Here’s a link:

This is the view from the cheap seats.

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