This time of year, bashing politicians is the great American sport. We have been deluged in absurdities, tortured by robot-calls and threatened by the destruction of all we hold dear if we don’t send in our $5, again and again and again.
I was listening to a TED talk, proposing that, with the wonders of the internet, we could do great things by having us all vote on bills – true democracy! Could this be the answer?
No! Please, please no! Our system is not a true democracy – and I like it that way. Have the general population vote on issues? Have you listened to the “general population” recently? I fear what we would get is rule by those that show up on public comment boards on the internet. The ones who call each other a**holes and can’t put together a coherent sentence. Yeah, I know a lot of people who comment intelligently and politely. But I fear the volume of the screamers will drown out those more reasonable.
While working for state government over six years, I got an appreciation for what people in government -including politicians – cope with. They are constantly pulled at by people coming from all sorts of viewpoints. “Spend here!!” “Lower costs!” “Back what I want!” “Look the other way!” Good politicians have the skill to appear to listen to all of these, yet make a single decision. I do not have that skill. I would be stark raving mad if I had to plot a course though all those influences. Thank god we have people – however much I may disagree with some – who are willing to be targets for all our hopes & angers! Thank god they have people on staff who read and study the options. I’m willing to pay for that.
You don’t want me tweeting my vote on bills I haven’t seen and don’t understand. My part – and yours – is to vote. As George Takei, the original Star Trek Sulu, reminds us, “Our democracy needs the participation of its people to remain robust. …While voting is a right, it is also a privilege that many have fought and died to win and retain. ”
By the way, I was complaining to a poly sci grad from another country about how our system was a pendulum that swung back and forth – more civil rights to fewer, less favoring of corporations to more, etc. It makes it hard to see progress. She remarked, “You have swings of the pendulum; we have revolutions!” Gulp. I guess our founding fathers knew what they were doing after all.
I think a lot of politicians enter into service with the idea of doing good. Then, in short order, they realize they can get even richer if they play the game (and they are almost always wealthy already when they take office). I think we should be able to vote online; no driving to the polling place, no standing in lines, just get online and do it. I don’t see anything wrong with this, and I think it would improve participation a thousandfold.