"Missing Mandate" in the 2010 Election Results: Let This Be the Last Time
November 4, 2010 - 1:52pm ET
Although the winners of the 2010 elections and the two major parties backing them claim voters gave them a mandate, the overall results are widely interpreted to be devoid of mandates.
That's because the two parties and their financial backers have rigged U.S. electoral processes to prevent voters from issuing mandates. They have denied voters the option of choosing among an array of candidates with clear cut mandates by passing unfair state and federal election laws that enable most major party candidates to handily defeat third party candidates. With no viable third party candidates to choose from, voters have no choice but to vote for one of the two major party candidates, who are free to run on deliberately ambiguous and deceptive platforms.
They win elections because the special interests who finance their elections pay for the airing of political advertisements that camouflage their real track records and intentions. Once they are in office, they can claim to have any mandate they wish, and enact whatever legislation they and their financial backers wish to enact.
Unsurprisingly, entrapped and infuriated voters despise the Democratic and Republican parties and most of their incumbents, as New York Times columnist Frank Rich points out, and polls have repeatedly shown. Voters use elections to do the only thing they can do, which is to get rid of the representatives who most flagrantly flouted their wishes. They routinely do this, election cycle after election cycle, even when they have to vote for opposition candidates who are no less likely to flout their wishes and ignore their needs. The mandate-less results of the 2010 elections exemplify the two parties' deliberate corruption of the democratic process.
They have transformed U.S. elections into a farce. Their caricature of democracy would be comical, especially the phony pontifications of elected officials, except that the parties' deformation of democratic processes has led to such abuses of the public trust that the fabric of society is being torn apart.
Major party lawmakers have opened the door to the destruction of the country's industrial base, and let the fraudulent securities practices of the banking and financial industry they refuse to regulate cause a deep economic recession, destroying trillions of dollars of wealth in the process. By refusing to genuinely regulate the industry even after the onset of the recession, these same lawmakers are allowing them to thwart an economic recovery that could provide economic and financial security to the American people.
I estimate that the acts and omissions of U.S. lawmakers have caused upwards of 100,000,000 Americans to be financially ruined, or to be on the verge of ruin, because they have been relegated to jobs that do not pay living wages, or have lost or are about to lose their jobs, homes, savings, health, healthcare and pensions.
But there is an even greater travesty than governmental ruination of a third of the population. The two conniving major parties have so rigged the electoral process that even when a third of the population is in dire straits, the American people cannot use elections to mandate their elected representatives to see to it that U.S. economic and financial systems provide them the economic and financial security to which all Americans are entitled.
Under the despotic electoral tutelage of the two major parties, the sole purpose of elections is to compel disempowered voters to transfer their sovereignty to elected party representatives so they can pass legislation in the name of all the American people even when a majority of Americans are totally opposed to it.
Proof positive of this fact was the blatant refusal of Congress and the White House to put on the negotiating table of health care reform legislation the preference held by a majority of Americans for a single payer health care system.
While my views of U.S. elections, and the results of the 2010 elections, may seem extreme to some, even the conservative commentator David Broder offers a partial endorsement of them.
Before the 2010 elections, he predicted that the results would fail to provide a mandate to the Democratic or Republican party, or Congress. (See his "Missing Mandate" in the Washington Post print edition, 10/28/10.) He blamed the two parties for the predicted failure, and identified as the major cause their incompetence in addressing the economic needs of the American people:
"Neither party can claim success on the most urgent task, providing an economic blueprint that allows people to lead their lives with confidence. . . Who in either party has put forward explanations of economic forces that make sense to most voters? No one . . . What is true of the economic debate is equally the case when it comes to other issues. Neither party regularly presents compelling spokesmen making articulate arguments."
Broder goes on to link this incompetence to the more generalized failure of the two major parties to evoke widespread popular support (he neglects to mention that a majority of voters would prefer to have a competitive third party to choose from):
"The ratings [voters] give the parties has rarely been weaker. Large majorities of Republicans express doubts about the GOP. As do large majorities of Democrats about their own party."
Let's be clear about one important fact regarding the "missing mandate" in the 2010 election results. The mandate may be missing from the election results, but it is not missing from voters' minds. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans want the federal government to take action to spur job-creating economic growth -- even if it increases the deficit. But they cannot elect a majority of Congressional representatives from either party who will acknowledge and implement this critical legislative priority. To the contrary, these representatives and the White House appear to be pursuing an opposing set of objectives.
What is the remedy for an electoral system that has compelled the electorate to elect a Congress without a mandate, a Congress likely to make their economic and financial distress far worse than the previous Congress?
It has long been predicted by many observers that despite the objections of a majority of the American people, the new Congress will move quickly to ally with the Obama administration's long-standing intention to slash entitlements, and possibly to privatize Social Security and Medicare. They are also likely to allow the continuation of the extraordinary transfer of wealth to the wealthy that special interest-backed lawmakers set in motion several decades ago, even though it is pauperizing working Americans and the middle class, and sucking the economic and financial lifeblood from communities throughout the nation.
How are we to prevent this governmentally-driven implosion of the American way of life?
It is certainly not by imagining that we can get lawmakers corrupted by special interest money to pass laws preventing special interest money from getting them elected. Nor is it by imagining that we can get lawmakers to redraw the boundaries of the election districts they have drawn around themselves to exclude voters who would be likely to vote against them.
No, the way the electoral system works has to be changed without changing any of the laws that make the system work the way it works.
While this may seem to be an impossibility, given the way the two major parties have comprehensively and systematically rigged U.S. elections, there is a mechanism that empowers voters to wrest control of elections from the parties without changing any laws. They can use it to formulate policy mandates and elect candidates who will implement their mandates.
The mechanism is the Interactive Voter Choice System. I first conceived of it in 2004 when I was attending a campaign event to support the presidential primary bid of Howard Dean. I went to the event because I was alarmed that Dean appeared to be moving away from his initial opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Since I knew that he would be including the supporters attending our event in a pre-scheduled teleconference, I wanted to see if I could find a way to request that he remain true to his initial opposition. I also wanted to get other supporters to join me in pressing Dean not to renege on his opposition.
What I realized while waiting for the teleconference to begin was that there was no formal mechanism built into the campaign for giving Dean a specific policy recommendation. Neither I, as an individual supporter, nor the other attendees, as a whole, had any way to articulate our priorities at the event and transmit them to Dean.
Even though Dean's campaign slogan was "You have the power", I began to feel pretty powerless, and actually rather foolish, once it dawned on me that I and my fellow attendees were just passive spectators waiting for Dean to call us up and give us the same prepared speech that he was simultaneously giving to hundreds of supporters around the country listening to the same conference call.
Just as I was pondering this irony, and the significance of the absence of a mechanism by which voters can formulate and transmit policy mandates to candidates who are asking to represent them, the idea for a mandate-generating mechanism popped into my mind, right there on the spot.
It was sparked by my opposition to the invasion of Iraq, my experience as a former electoral candidate, knowledge of electoral politics gleaned from the study of political science, familiarity with social science research and statistics, and a decade of web entrepreneurship.
I have been mulling this mechanism over in my mind since the Dean campaign. In the intervening years, I have figured out how to expand its functions so that it enables voters not only to define and transmit written policy agendas and legislative mandates to electoral candidates, but to get control of electoral processes as a whole.
Voters can use it to team up with other voters who share their policy priorities, using the free tools and services that will be provided on the social networking website I am building to make the mechanism available to voters at large. They can form voting blocs around common agendas which they can use as legislative mandates to screen, select, nominate and hold accountable candidates whom their voting blocs elect to office.
What will make this possible is the large scale collective action power of the Internet, combined with the functionality of a politically-oriented social networking platform. As one blogger has observed, what I am proposing is somewhat like a 'political Facebook', a site that connects people based on their policy priorities. Of course it is more than that because like-minded voters can use it to join forces online to build voting blocs, and use their voting blocs to build winning electoral coalitions.
These voting blocs can work inside or outside existing parties, or in new parties they or others create. They can build electoral coalitions with other voting blocs, political parties, labor unions and advocacy groups. By so doing, they can attract a large enough cross section of voters across the political spectrum to build winning electoral bases that can outmaneuver and outflank special interest-backed candidates running on the tickets of the two major parties.
This is the solution I propose to the "missing mandate" crisis, and the absence from U.S. politics of a popular mandate-generating mechanism, which I realized at the Dean event. I'm presently working hard to get the Interactive Voter Choice System up and running so that voters can use it to get control of the 2012 elections, and send unequivocal mandates to their elected representatives. If this dream comes true, the 2010 elections will be the last major elections in the United States with a "missing mandate".
A prototype of the website I am building around the system can be accessed at www.reinventingdemocracy.us.
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