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What Happened to our Democracy?

Juan Cole has a thoughtful piece on his blog entitled “10 Ways Arab Democracies Can Avoid American Mistakes“. In it, he encourages the new democracies emerging in the Middle East to avoid making the same mistakes that are causing so much trouble in the US.

What I find ironic is that his article is really not about the new Arab democracies at all. It is a prescription for fixing what is wrong with the US (even though he acknowledges that it is probably too late for us).

But it makes a good list of what we should be trying to accomplish if we want to save our ailing US democracy:

  • Ban all television advertising for political campaigns (other countries have already done this, so it isn’t a crazy idea).
  • Hold your elections on non-work days or make them a holiday.
  • Make voter registration automatic and compulsory.
  • Maybe even make voting compulsory. After all, military service is compulsory, so why not voting?
  • Have a comprehensive bill of rights in your constitution, including electronic rights to privacy. Limit or abolish “secret police”.
  • Restrict military spending to defending your borders.
  • Keep your judiciary out of politics. And never, ever allow corporations to be declared persons.
  • Protect worker’s rights, including the right to unionize.
  • Strongly prohibit monopolies.

I know the “No Labels” organization is fighting for some of these. Do they have a chance? Or is it really too late for us?



  1. Dan wrote:

    I think it’s too late, but I won’t give up without a fight. Was attacked by some young people today, I was using an educated argument, so they decided to attack me personally, proclaiming that I must be some lazy slug getting rich on welfare. It was quite vicious. I replied that I was retired military and owned my own business. Haven’t heard a thing for 8 hrs. Guess they must have had to go back to their attacking “liberals” handbook. They also were blaming me for messing up the world for them. We’re in this together, and yet to be subjected to an attack like that was heartbreaking.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    Dan: Send them these suggestions, except we don’t have compulsory military. I don’t like the idea of compulsory voting. My 73 year old neighbor was here the other day. He always votes-straight ticket. He listens to the news on television every morning. I asked him who our senators were. He couldn’t tell me. I asked him who our representative to the House was. He couldn’t tell me. For heaven’s sake, we just voted for Kathy Hochel May 24th, and he has no idea.

    My feeling would be to bar those people who know nothing about our government and let the rest of us determine things.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Sammy wrote:

    I would not be in favor of compulsory voting. If 50% or 60% of the possible electorate is uneducated (about the issues/candidates), do we really want them voting? Telling someone he/she has to vote won’t make them anymore interested.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink
  4. Arthanyel wrote:

    Democracy is the form of government in which everybody gets what the majority deserves.

    I don’t know if it’s too late, but it is definitely getting very dark.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    It better not be too late. I can’t sell my house right now.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    Dan – I understand how you feel. But you probably just shook their world up just a little bit. Hopefully for the better.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    Personally, I kind of like the German system (from what I understand of it). Seats are apportioned to a party based on the percentage of votes that party received. Then, individuals within the party are assigned based on the number of votes they received. So if a party gets 51% of the votes in every single district, they only get 51% of the seats, not all 100%. It makes the representation more proportional and reduces the influence of sparsely populated regions.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    It is never too late. The questions are what will happen to convince people change is necessary and what will it cost us? As with many other things, the longer we wait, the more it will cost.

    Friday, July 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink