How do we put more power in the hands of the US people? [ed. title]

Twenty-five years from now, networked computers will be as ubiquitous as
toasters. I imagine that will make the Electoral College obsolete and give the people the ability to control their Congressmen rather than the lobbyists.

For the sake of this discussion let’s ignore the elephant in the room, the need to prevent hackers from influencing votes. What steps should we be exploring now in order to give the people a greater influence in how their government is run?

I don’t want to hear that the people are too stupid. America is supposed to be a democracy, not a monarchy. People are ignorant because they can be, and because they don’t feel that their vote really means anything. It’s generally used as an excuse by those in an elite group who don’t want the masses to take away whatever perquisite they have latched onto.

No, the U.S. is a Constitution Republic with some aspects of democracy used to to support that. You seem to be making the common assumption that some democracy is good so much more must be better without supporting that.

Computers are already much more common than toasters and we could allow the public to vote on every single issue if we chose to but is that really a good idea? Do you want your Congressperson to just be the equivalent of a popular vote directed avatar? Are there any limits on this from your perspective?

California is a good example of how well that works.

I completely agree here. Even without resulting to the idea that the American people are stupid, even the most brilliant people don’t have the time to really become educated enough about so many issues that our elected officials deal with to make educated votes. By having the masses vote on every issue means either those people are largely voting uneducated about the issues, or they’re so busy educating themselves on the issues that they’re not doing other productive work.

That’s the whole point of an elected official. They’re supposed to represent the needs, beliefs, desires, and all that of their constituents then become educated on the issues and vote in proxy. It is their job to be educated about the issues then vote based on the representation.

Another issue here is that, even if we did implement that sort of thing, all it would mean is that all the lobbying wouldn’t be at our congressmen and senators, but we’d see everyone blasted with constant political ads. If you think the 24-hour news cycle is horrible, I can only imagine this would be 100x worse.

You seem to have misspelled republic.

I don’t think that the citizenry is stupid, per se, but I am not going to exert any energy to make us more like a democracy until I find more people who can name their own current representatives in Congress than can name the last winner of the Super Bowl or American Idol.

Changed first word in title from “Who” to “How.”

[ /Moderating ]

Maybe computers are common in your neck of the woods but many of here are buying Pentium 4s from the Goodwill or using the one at the library. Yes, I want my congressman to listen to my opinion rather than some lobbyist who is padding his pocket.

Citizens don’t need to know everything about a bill to express how they feel about an issue. They can decide whether feeding the hungry is more important than going to Mars. They can decide whether to subsidize ethanol production and funnel that money towards electric vehicles and mass transit.

They certainly have a right to decide if that highway expansion project tacked on to a bill for child care is relevant to the issue.to

And you want more democracy?

You can’t put more power into the peoples’ hands and still have everything handled on a Federal level. Creating smaller, sustainable, resilient economies would be a great step in giving power back to people. This would involve more employee owned and operated businesses, local currencies, and smaller districts that can be governed easier by direct democracy.

So, will I come home from work and sit down to the latest 30 bills in my inbox at an average of 200 pages each and decide yea or nay on each one of them? I don’t really have the time for that.

Could I pay someone else, someone who I trust, to vote the way they think is best?

The people already vote. They have all the power. Lobbyists have no power whatsoever.

I agree that we should make voting easier - like with vote by mail - but the power is already in the hands of the people.

I’m too weirded out by the implication that it’s going to take twenty-five years until there are more toasters than computers to consider any of the other points.

I have heard suggestions somewhere of a jury like system - where people would be randomly selected to go spend a day or week discussing a proposal, and they make the choice. Every one would eventually get a chance to be the decider, but most of the time don’t need to worry about it. It lowers the needed bandwidth per person - I can’t handle 40 - 200 page bills a day, but a single 200 page bill over a week with a dozen people to talk it over with? Yeah, I can handle that, especially if I only have to do it once every few years.

Small is not beautiful.

I can’t remember where, but I read an article where the author was advocating a much larger House of Representatives. Right now, the House is capped at 450 members, resulting in each Representative representing some half a million people, depending on the state. Dramatically increasing the size of the House would cause Representatives to be closer to the people. Each Congressman would represent 50,000 people or so, instead of 500,000. This would make the House have some 3000 members, but technology could facilitate meetings and votes.

The article expressed these ideas much better than I am.

A legislature that big would definitely need a presidium.

I’m confused. Is the OP considering some limited direct democracy at the federal level? Or just ways for our representative democracy to represent us better? Is it possible that the “It’s a Republic not a Democracy” trope has actually been introduced where it is germane for once? :eek:

In any case I would disagree with the OP’s assumption that internet access makes us more informed. It seems to me that by giving us more information options more people will surf past the political info to focus on their specific entertainment. The method I would suggest for empowering the electorate would be to encourage more face to face politics. Recreational politics like we had back before there were a multitude of entertainment options to fragment society. Get people together for coffee, or tea, or wine, or beers, or whatever and talk politics in an enjoyable manner. Far too many Americans are uncomfortable talking politics simply because the don’t know how to do so. It is considered rude. They don’t understand that disagreement can be a good thing that can lead to people examining their beliefs and coming to a better understanding of what they stand for.

I don’t see how this is even a remotely good or workable idea. Just because something is popular doesn’t necessarily make it a good or sustainable idea, and necessary things are sometimes UNpopular.

Besides, you don’t get a dog, and then bark yourself.

It’s even worse than that; the people cannot become educated enough to make rational, educated votes on all those issues; neither can our representatives. That’s part of why they have a staff and contacts and experts, instead; they collect the people they need to do their job, because it’s too complicated for one person to do. I don’t have a staff of experts, nor do most people. And they can’t do a job by themselves that even a whole gang of experts can only do a rather so-so job at.

The exact quote escapes me, but Winston Churchill once said something along the lines of believing in yet more democracy is akin to being told that ventilation is good for the lungs, leading someone to smash all the windows in their house to get lots of ventilation, and then wondering why they contract pneumonia.