I’ve been thinking about elections (not just the current one) because I’ll be speaking on Friday at a panel on “Elections and Democracy” at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. (Check my Web site for information on this, my \Clarity\ reading on 13 October, and other appearances this week in New York City.)
The two most striking truths about our national elections tell opposite stories. On the one hand, elections are an essential ingredient of democracy; without them, whatever other liberties may prevail, there is no democracy. On the other, the hyper-inflation of American elections as the sole act of citizenship knocks me off my feet. All the time, money, and media that has been pumped into this single quadrennial action serves to misdirect our attention from the other necessary ingredients of authentic democracy that have gone missing in action. Instead of full, transparent information, meaningful deliberative forums, a real say in the decisions that affect us, practical accountability at all levels (and the guarantee of fair elections), what we actually have is lying, withholding and obfuscation of information, pro forma public participation in policy deliberations (at best), the pervasive sense that our individual views are negligible in affecting what happens to us, and almost no real accountability.
It is essential, I think, to improve our electoral process by reforming the Electoral College, enabling instant runoff voting, instituting real public financing of campaigns, and guaranteeing fair, accountable elections (which includes eliminating the type of voting apparatus that lends itself to easy tampering). But more than that, much more, I’m working for attention to the rest of the vocabulary of democracy, before it wastes away and all we have left is “yes” and “no.”