[EM] Democracy

Fred Gohlke fredgohlke at verizon.net
Sun Mar 29 10:01:18 PDT 2009

Good Morning, Don

re: "Political parties have a right under the U.S. Constitution
      to form an association, to assemble (conventions), to
      select a candidate, and to promote that person for public
      office (assuming that public office is elected)."

That is not accurate.  I believe you'll find the text of the first 
amendment to be:

     "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
      religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
      abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
      right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition
      the Government for a redress of grievances."

The right to assemble is granted to the people, not to political parties.

Most Americans assume political parties are legitimate centers of power 
under our Constitution.  That is untrue.  Nothing in our Constitution 
expresses or implies the need for political parties.  They are an 
extra-Constitutional invention, devised to advance partisan interest.

The problem of partisanship was well understood by the framers of our 

             Political Parties in the United States
                        By John F. Bibby

     "When the Founders of the American Republic wrote the U.S.
      Constitution in 1787, they did not envision a role for
      political parties in the governmental order.  Indeed, they
      sought through various constitutional arrangements such as
      separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and
      indirect election of the president by an electoral college
      to insulate the new republic from political parties and

     "In spite of the Founders' intentions, the United States in
      1800 became the first nation to develop parties organized on
      a national basis and to transfer executive power from one
      faction to another via an election."


     [John F. Bibby is professor emeritus of political science at
      the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee]

A party system developed in our nation because our early leaders used 
their standing to consolidate their power.  Politicians in a position to 
do so institutionalized their advantage by forming political parties and 
creating rules to preserve them and aid their operation:

     "The Democratic-Republicans and Federalists invented the
      modern political party -- with party names, voter loyalty,
      newspapers, state and local organizations, campaign
      managers, candidates, tickets, slogans, platforms,
      linkages across state lines, and patronage."


These features advance party interest at the expense of the public 
interest.  They show how political parties are an embodiment of human 
nature; they put self-interest above all other considerations.  They 
function precisely as a thoughtful person would expect them to function.

Political parties are quasi-official institutions designed to acquire 
the reins of government.  They sponsor candidates for public office by 
providing the resources needed to conduct a campaign for election.  As a 
condition of their sponsorship, they require that the candidates support 
the party, thus giving the party ultimate control of the elected officials.

Parties, themselves, are not the problem.  We have a natural tendency, 
as well as a Constitutional right, to align ourselves with others who 
share our views.  In general, partisanship is healthy when it helps give 
voice to our views.  It is destructive when it achieves power.  In other 
words, the danger is not in parties, it is in allowing parties to 
control government.

The big hurdle is exposing the heart of the problem.  Many people fall 
victim to the common malady of believing our press clippings.  We've 
been told so many times, through so many years, that our political 
system is the best in the world, some of us are unable to see it has 
become a cesspool of corruption, funded by special interests that buy 
the laws we endure.

We have the technological ability to support a more democratic method. 
One such method is Practical Democracy, which allows parties to fill 
their role of informing and focusing public opinion while putting the 
will of the people above their partisan preferences.

re: "Interest groups are also protected under the first
      amendment.  They also have a right to organize and to
      promote their common interest."

Interest groups have a right to promote their common interest ... but 
they have no right to compel it.  The idea that a minority of the 
citizenry, because they share a common interest, have a right to impose 
their will on the majority of the people is a flawed view of democracy.

re: "The next democratic principle include free speech.
      Political campaigning is a form of speech and is thus
      protected under the first amendment.  A candidate is free
      to speak in support of his/her election and free to
      criticize his/her opponent."

This assertion seems to be based on the assumption that elections should 
be a confrontational, partisan-based process and that campaigning should 
be an integral part of that process.  The fact that such a process 
evolved in America does not make it the only method of conducting 
elections.  We've learned enough about the deleterious effects of 
campaign-based politics, from the corruption-inducing need for campaign 
funds through the deceit and obfuscation that characterize the process 
to the narcissistic effect of the process on the candidates, to realize 
there must be a better alternative.  Pronouncing justifications for the 
evils of the process does nothing to improve our society.

re: "I think our democracy is really up for sale to the highest
      bidder. The problem we have is that the U.S. Supreme Court
      has, in general, said that "money is a form of free speech".
      There is clearly a trade-off between free speech (money) and
      voting rights (the concept of one man-one vote)."

You and I seem to have similar views in this regard.  Does your view not 
urge consideration of a process in which money has no influence, a 
process where the qualities of the individuals are the paramount means 
by which our representatives in government are selected?

I submit that the Practical Democracy concept is worthy of your 
consideration for several reasons, two of which are pertinent to your 
message and the free speech commentary you cited:

1) because it gives every member of the electorate an equal
    opportunity to influence the government, to the full extent
    of their desire and ability.

2) because the cost of conducting an election by this method
    is free to the participants, except for the value of their
    time, and minimal to the government.  Thus, it removes the
    greatest single cause of corruption in our current system ...
    the need for campaign funds.

The sole detriment of the proposal, so far as I've been able to 
determine, is that it's 'different'.  Given the deterioration of the 
mores of my homeland during my lifetime, being different may be more a 
commendation than a condemnation.

Fred Gohlke

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