Al Smith is one of those credited with having said “The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy”. As a democrat (with a little d) I certainly hold to that philosophical statement. Democracy in America was under attack this past year of 2012 and in my opinion won most, not all the battles, and is still winning the war. There are those who would replace our democratic republic with an oligarchy of the rich, a plutocracy of the 1% with the other 99% basically doing their bidding. Our Senators today are either millionaires or owned by millionaires and many of our Representatives are in the millionaire category.
Unfortunately discussion of government structure and processes, administrative and election law is among that which engenders the least interest among our people. Only when rulers threaten to tax their favorite beverage (tea in 1773 or soda in NYC in 2012) do people begin to focus on the power of government and the rules that put the governed in office. More democracy does not promise nirvana nor paradise but it just might preserve this republic for another hundred years and give my grandchildren and their grandchildren a free and prosperous country to live in.
There are a number of democratic reforms we need to enact to preserve popular democracy. We need to abolish the Electoral College and elect the nation’s President by direct popular vote. Doing that will among other things reduce the temptation of some politicians to play with the electoral college rules in their state (as State Sen. Pileggi is determined to do in Penn) to favor one party over the other. Direct popular vole will strengthen the President’s position as spokesman and leader of the nation both home and abroad.
We need to revamp our voter registration laws. If in fact the American people want photo id presented whenever a voter votes than why not institute same day registration using the photo id rather than a two step process of registration pre voting and needing id on two occasions. If the supporters of photo voter id are sincere they should support same day registration as the logical extension of their plan. Photo id required of already registered voters is just an attempt to suppress turnout of minorities, young people and the very old who most often lack photo id.
I served in the New York State Assembly for eight years. I strongly support term limits for all elected officials. What seems fair and workable are two terms for most executive officers and six terms for 2 yr legislators (3 terms for 4 or 6 year legislators. The idea behind a citizen legislature was not to make these positions career jobs but to have citizens representative of the population acting on the laws that govern the people.
It’s time get serious about a form of re-re-districting, if we are going to elect our representatives by district, which prevents political gerrymandering. One possibility is using existing county and municipal lines and letting legislators cast a weighted vote based on the population. The boundaries of our counties and municipalities were set many decades and in some cases centuries ago with no reference to Democrat or Republican strength. The weighted vote would accomplish the objective of one many one vote and using existing boundaries would allow for district representation so people could relate to their individual representative.
The U S Senate needs to stop acting like a millionaire's downtown club and become the people's second house that was envisaged when the constitution was amended to provide for direct popular election of Senators. The filibuster needs to be abolished and majority rule allowed to govern the Senate with the rights of the minority on a given issue to offer amendments and engage in some debate. But except in the cases the constitution provided for e.g. treaties no super majority of more than 51 should be required to enact legislation for the country.
There are other reforms at local, state and national level that should be implemented to open up our governmental processes and encourage more people to participate, e.g. universal ballot access. We must insure that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth”.
29 December 2012
29 December 2012