I've been watching politics for quite a few years and I've been pondering voting systems and how they affect things in general. I remember learning in school about the necessity of secret ballot elections. The problem of violent and sociopathic types attacking those they disagree with -- recently emphasized by a rash of anti-Liberal violence in Guelph. Yet, the secret ballot wasn't a solution to improve how well elections are administered, but rather a solution to deal with those who do not understand that, in the long run, the goal of democracy should be to work together towards a common good. It doesn't matter if you are conservative, liberal, socialist or other. Democracy is an attempt to avoid being in an endless, and sometimes bloody power struggle and perhaps even accomplish something good for society along the way.
In the perfect world, these people would not exist (or at very least would be banned from participating in the process until they matured). Elections would not be a secret affair, where we hide behind a curtain, vote quietly and pray that our vote will be counted and actually matter in the end. Instead, they would be a more social system, where neighbours, families, coworkers and colleagues can sit down together and talk openly about all of the candidates. Thus, they would give everyone a chance to hear perspectives and thoughts which are unfiltered by the traditional media or highly sterilized party spin.
Then after everyone votes the first time, give everyone a chance to change their vote and evolve as the results come in. (IE. if I vote for person A and they receive less than a certain percentage, I can switch to someone else accordingly.) This would be a system where the ideas of community, cooperation and the social good were inherently incorporated; where you, as an individual, will have a vote, but everyone's votes are shared openly, explained, and understood. A system where, if you were abusive, antisocial, violent, or in any way threatened someone else's freedom of choice, you would be banned from voting or participating in the process in any fashion.
These ideas may sound awfully familiar to some people, since it's very similar to the caucus system which some US states have attempted during the primary season. While I was in attendance at any caucuses and thus could not discuss firsthand how things worked out, I did hear about a plethora of problems and complaints with both the primaries and the caucuses. These ranged from improperly prepared staff at the caucus locations to too small of venues for the turnout. However, to me, these problems do not seem inherent in the caucus system itself, but rather in simple misjudgments such as a complete lack of interest for one party or far more people turning out to caucus than anyone expected for the other party. The Texas Democrats seem to believe the system only needs tweaking and some argue that the party caucuses in the states had the effect of party building. Perhaps they could have a similar effect of building nationalism and a sense of community if used for general elections.
I do believe that, with some effort, these problems could be overcome. Through caucuses, a major conflict in our political discourse may be resolved by forcing people who want to be involved in the political process to come out, discuss maturely, compromise as necessary and eventually find common ground with their political allies and, more importantly, opponents. A interactive democracy could exist where people are not digging their heels in like babies having a tantrum, but rather working towards some common social good like mature adults.
Eventually, this system can be formalized in a way where cities would build large public fora where thousands can gather every year to vote, and discuss the issues that matter to them and the candidates they support for office. It could turn into a process where people can see how the winds of change are really blowing and adjust their vote accordingly to ensure that representative who most represents them is actually elected. A system where people don't view politics as a blood sport to be won at all costs, but a cooperative effort to try to find the best direction for their city, county, province, state or country.
I acknowledge that this idea is inherently idealistic and likely places too much faith in our common nature to be willing to work with each other towards a common social good. Any realistic process would have to incorporate some of the cynical and individualistic aspects from the secret ballot system, simply to avoid mob rule or outright violence. even with strict laws to prevent coercion and intimidation within a caucus system, other benefits of secret ballot cannot be entirely ignored.
Yet, as I have discussed in previous stories, democracy is failing in many countries around the world, not because people don't want democracy, but because people fail to realize the two most fundamental aspects of a good democracy: One, if based on the agreed-upon rules your candidate loses, you and your supporters will agree to stop fighting and instead will regroup for the next election. Two, the ruling party cannot change the rules without some super majority process in which a significant portion of the population can show its informed consent.
This failure of democracy is partially due to the cutthroat nature of Rovian politics during the last decade, and partly due to the lack of any polite dialogue between opposing parties. Parties are more obsessed with chopping the other person down and gaining power, than working towards any goal to help the community and nation improve and grow.
Perhaps by incorporating something like a caucus system into our elections process, this caustic environment can change and liberal democracy can be revitalized.
Crossposted at 1337hax0r.com