A Democratic Republic...

Many of the ideals we talk about "Freedom" in this country come from Democratic-Republicanism, but we are often faced with the harsh reality of Federalist implementation. Truth is, I'm kinda partial to the DR, and the more radical ones at that.(Thomas Paine, for the win). Many of these ideas have been around for a long time, and I think its time to sweep away the last bits of Federalist nonsense. 1. The United States is a Democratic-Republic. All language referring to a "Republic", and "Republican" values should be updated to "Democratic Republic", and "Democratic Republican" values. This shall include the requirement for state constitutions to be "Democratic Republican" in nature. 2. Ballot Initiatives at the federal level. A ballot question shall pass a threshold of 25 thousand signatures, or petition of one third of congress to appear on the ballot. Furthermore it shall be a requirement that all states have ballot initiatives in their constitutions. 3. Unicameral congress. The senate and the House of representatives shall be merged, but rules for districting shall remain the same. District lines shall be redrawn and un gerrymandered. 4. All offices shall have a term of 8 years, but subject to a recall vote at any time for any reason. All states must have a recall vote as well. term limits on all offices will be removed. Congress shall have two classes(staggered vote). 5. Further constitutional amendments will require a two thirds vote in congress plus a two thirds popular vote.


Showing 12 reactions

How would you tag this suggestion?
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • jules rensch
    commented 2017-01-27 15:55:27 -0500
    This quote, from a most famous American, led me to investigate the Modern Whig Party…..

    “I have always been an old-line Henry Clay Whig” —Abraham Lincoln….

    I like what I see, maybe you will too!

    more info here: http://www.modernwhig.org/

    Observer Jules
  • Bert Illmann
    tagged this with impractical 2016-12-08 01:33:01 -0500
  • Brandon Zicha
    commented 2016-11-21 08:07:11 -0500
    Michael,

    I very much appreciated your response. I hope I can give it the consideration it deserves.

    “Indeed. It’s the worst form of government—but still the best we’ve ever had. Hence the necessity of checks and balances amongst all organs of power in society. It’s the only way it can work.” Exactly… but this includes bicameralism. So if we are going to

    “On the other hand, we’ve had New England town meetings for almost 400 years now, and that seems to working out pretty well.”

    Indeed, but let us not forget the Salem witch trials! And as anyone who has lived in small towns knows, without proper protections those ‘small democratic gatherings’ can be oppressive and comformist in the extreme.

    This is why I believe it necessary for the Federal government has an obligation to protect the rights and blessings of Liberty such that each an every person may stand with dignity and their own sovereign mind without fear of reprisal that would render that person materially destroyed. Without protections humans became brutally hierarchical very quickly. We see this in our economic relations. For democratic republicanism to work it requires serious protections for the base-level well being and protections.

    “It may be that more direct forms of democracy just don’t really scale well.”

    I would say there are downsides of democracy at each level it is practiced, and it usually takes the form of majority tyranny. At each level some sort of check is needed.

    “Initiative is probably best at a community size no larger than a county. Referred measures may work fine up to the state level as long as it’s used mainly for constitutional amendments or as a sanity check for controversial legislation.”

    As to initiatives and referenda, I favor a civic body consider these. Ideally, I would like to see a ‘Citizens chamber’ that convenes composed of – say 30-200 (depending on the size of the community) randomly selected citizens of voting age, and a random selection of say half that number of legislators, policy experts, industry leaders, civic organizations… who deliberate, hear testimony, and select by supermajority vote to put forth a referendum or initiative. Anyone in the community could collect a sufficient number of signatures could submit a proposal to the chamber.

    This would provide a necessary check on random or dangerous proposals (like those that have seriously harmed the ability of California to govern itself) by citizens themselves able to hear a great deal of testimony and evidence and then render a verdict – just like a jury.

    “But on a national scale?
    shudder**”

    hear hear. I prefer to think of the Federal government as a union of peoples in states. I referendum at the level of the national government doesn’t even make sense to me in the U.S. context.

    “We’d wind up with a bunch of West Coast liberals voting to ban oil, or something equally ridiculous.”

    For instance.

    “Exactly right. We actually have a very good system in this country already. Sure it has a few flaws, but then so does everything invented by man.
    We should focus more on reforming the current system rather than thinking up ways to replace it:
    Fix the broken primary system. Use a proportional vote in the electoral college. Overturn /Citizen United/ and reform the campaign finance system. Enlarge the House of Representatives and/or introduce multi member districts. Stop gerrymandering.”

    I would argue for something similar but also different in certain key respects:
    1.) Stop publicly financing primaries. Political parties are private civic organizations that should compete evening. This legitimization and fusion of political parties with the constitutional apparatus of voting is a perversion on party democracy with more in common with Leninist political theory than Republican. “Party membership” should mean more in terms of civic participation than a trip to the voting both. It’s on parties to connect with and involve their members.

    2.) Either return the electoral college to it’s original function with each elector being one unbound person knowledgeable about our political system, constitutional tradition, and function of the apparatus of state who is tasked with preventing dangerous populistic and potentially constitutionally damaging political force from coming to power…

    or…

    Just use the darn popular vote.

    3.) Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, strip corporations of legal personhood and 14th amendment protections, amend 1st amendment clarifying that money and other social signals are not protected speech. Rather speech is protected, and pass the American Anti-Corruption Act. That should really move the political system to a one person one vote system that a democratic republican society should be.

    4.) 3 guts the campaign finance system, but I would favor a fixed public funding scheme, combined with a per-person limit on giving to party organizations. I would favor fixing the ‘campaign season’ to 4 months. This would be by statute rather than constitutionally. 3 is sufficient to ensure such reforms wouldn’t creep.

    5.) Enlarge the House! Ab-so-lutely.

    6.) Automated randomized district drawing after the census taking into account certain criteria, and then approved by a independent review board in each state. = end gerrymandering.

    I would also – to make common cause with GI Jack as well as some of your points -favor slightly more democratization in the states… even perhaps a unicameral legislature.

    “And most importantly: Particulate! Discuss issues. Vote. Educate yourself. I can’t say I’m as active as I should be (nowhere near), but you can’t really have a liberal democtratic republic without full participation of the citizenry. It’s a fundamental impossibility.”

    Exactly. And I think we have paid too little attention to making sure our civic organizations require or activity in order to function…. this is part of how politics got so distant from the people.
  • Michael Wald
    commented 2016-11-21 04:36:33 -0500
    “For what it’s worth, pretty much no one that studies politics professionally has a strongly positive view of democracy… and if this recent spate of democides is any indication (see Brexit) they are horribly prone to manipulation – particularly in the contemporary social media era.”

    Indeed. It’s the worst form of government—but still the best we’ve ever had. Hence the necessity of checks and balances amongst all organs of power in society. It’s the only way it can work.

    “I agree that we should found our philosophy in some political thought, but it seems both symbolically violent to ally the MWP with a philosophy to which is was expressly opposed in its original form, and pratically unwise because direct democracy works terribly and has an abysmal track record (They killed Socrates!). It’s a system that works strongly against the rule of law (which is what makes populism so dangerous). "

    On the other hand, we’ve had New England town meetings for almost 400 years now, and that seems to working out pretty well.

    It may be that more direct forms of democracy just don’t really scale well. Initiative is probably best at a community size no larger than a county. Referred measures may work fine up to the state level as long as it’s used mainly for constitutional amendments or as a sanity check for controversial legislation.

    But on a national scale?
    • shudder**


    We’d wind up with a bunch of West Coast liberals voting to ban oil, or something equally ridiculous.

    “I, for one, would have trouble being in a movement that had such reckless views on constitutional matters…. moreover, there is already plenty of 3rd party choices out there for hard core democrats (the Greens, for one). What we don’t have is a place for Federalists.. and they are a strong, intellectually and organizationally deep constituency.”

    Exactly right. We actually have a very good system in this country already. Sure it has a few flaws, but then so does everything invented by man.

    We should focus more on reforming the current system rather than thinking up ways to replace it:

    Fix the broken primary system. Use a proportional vote in the electoral college. Overturn /Citizen United/ and reform the campaign finance system. Enlarge the House of Representatives and/or introduce multi member districts. Stop gerrymandering.

    And most importantly: Particulate! Discuss issues. Vote. Educate yourself. I can’t say I’m as active as I should be (nowhere near), but you can’t really have a liberal democtratic republic without full participation of the citizenry. It’s a fundamental impossibility.
  • Brandon Zicha
    commented 2016-11-20 14:36:24 -0500
    For what it’s worth, pretty much no one that studies politics professionally has a strongly positive view of democracy… and if this recent spate of democides is any indication (see Brexit) they are horribly prone to manipulation – particularly in the contemporary social media era.

    I agree that we should found our philosophy in some political thought, but it seems both symbolically violent to ally the MWP with a philosophy to which is was expressly opposed in its original form, and pratically unwise because direct democracy works terribly and has an abysmal track record (They killed Socrates!). It’s a system that works strongly against the rule of law (which is what makes populism so dangerous).

    I, for one, would have trouble being in a movement that had such reckless views on constitutional matters…. moreover, there is already plenty of 3rd party choices out there for hard core democrats (the Greens, for one). What we don’t have is a place for Federalists.. and they are a strong, intellectually and organizationally deep constituency.
  • Michael Wald
    commented 2016-11-18 01:12:12 -0500
    “If A), they lost the fight around 1790 or so.”

    Edit: That should have been “won the fight.” The Anti-Federalists lost. The federalist victory is today called “the Constitution.”
  • Michael Wald
    commented 2016-11-18 00:52:38 -0500
    “The other is a few of the founding father(federalists), didn’t believe in Democracy at all, and wanted the senate as a check against popular will.”

    Yes, undoubtedly some of them viewed it as a republican answer to the House of Lords. Which would make it an important check against the tyranny of majoritarianism, and thus still a fundamentally good idea.

    It was also established because this country is a federation, and all states are equal partners in that federation. The Senate represents that equal partnership.

    But mostly it’s there because of the Great Compromise between the large states and the small states.

    Regardless of why it’s there, it ain’t going away.

    “When the nation was founded, the senate was chosen by state governments, providing a check against popular will”

    And who elected the state governments? Last I checked they were chosen by popular vote.

    “Another was the Electoral College, to give a buffer between special interests and the people.”

    Among other reasons. Including the difficulty of holding a national election in the early years of the Republic. And the fact that (once again) small states didn’t want to be locked out of the choice of president by larger states. Which is still a factor today—Do you think presidential candidates would give a damn about states like Missouri and Iowa if there were no electoral college? Of course not. They’d spend all there time in the major population centers and basically ignore everyone else.

    Like it or not, regional interests matter in this country. The Senate and the electoral college are necessary to make sure those interests are heard.

    Rather than eliminating the college entirely, a better option is abandon the winner-take-all system and allocate the electoral votes according to each candidates share of the popular vote. Only Maine and Nebraska currently do anything like that.

    “I strongly disagree and I feel that bicameralism has previously led to tyranny. Bicameralism leads to more bureaucracy and red tape the impedes function.”

    Can you provide examples of this? I doubt if it ever led to tyranny. I’d agree it may be unnecessary (but not harmful) in a unitary state, but this country is not a unitary state. We are a federation. And I don’t think unicameralism works in federations. Certainly I can’t think of a single one off-hand that doesn’t have a bicameral legislature.

    “Entrenched interests don’t benefit overall from ballot initiatives. They already have power. Hence they are entrenched. Its harder for interests to get entrenched with ballot initiatives, and it allows voters to vote on single issues instead of accepting the whole package of politicians "

    If you don’t think astroturfing is a thing, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

    I think ballot initiatives can be useful. But don’t fool yourself into thinking they can’t be dangerous.

    FYI, “Federalist” has at least three different meanings:

    A) A supporter of the Consitution over the Articles of Confederation (obsolete)

    B) A member of Alexander Hamilton’s political party. While that party was (usually) the more sensible of the two early parties, it is currently defunct and of little modern relevance. (obsolete)

    C) A supporter of federalism as a principle. Which was pretty much everybody in the revolutionary period, and is largely the default position today. Because, ya know, we live in a federation.

    So I guess I don’t know what “federalist” influence you’re talking about. If A), they lost the fight around 1790 or so. If B), they lost to the Jeffersonians before 1830, and what little enduring influence they’ve had is mostly positive. And if C), our entire political structure is built around the assumption of federalism, and that’s not going to change.
  • Gi Jack
    commented 2016-11-16 20:44:53 -0500
    I’ll addres some concerns

    >The Senate exists for a reason, it puts the states on a more equal footing

    Thats one reason. The other is a few of the founding father(federalists), didn’t believe in Democracy at all, and wanted the senate as a check against popular will. The federalists represented entrenched interests. When the nation was founded, the senate was chosen by state governments, providing a check against popular will. Another was the Electoral College, to give a buffer between special interests and the people.

    The senate was designed to represent unelected entrenched interests. It was in the progressive era that the constitution was modified for elected senators.

    >Unicameralism at the federal level could lead to Oligarchy.

    I strongly disagree and I feel that bicameralism has previously led to tyranny. Bicameralism leads to more bureaucracy and red tape the impedes function.

    >Or they’re written by entrenched interests masquerading as “we the people.”

    Consider this: Entrenched interests don’t benefit overall from ballot initiatives. They already have power. Hence they are entrenched. Its harder for interests to get entrenched with ballot initiatives, and it allows voters to vote on single issues instead of accepting the whole package of politicians
  • Michael Wald
    commented 2016-11-11 01:31:47 -0500
    Robert Edwards: Seems like we agree completely on the Senate.

    As to state legislators, the reason unicameralism might work there a bit better is because, unlike Congress, both state chambers represent population districts rather than geographic units. In fact in many states there’s only one set of legislative district—you elect three people and one of them is a senator.

    That basically just means senators are just representatives with a different title. One could argue the extra house doesn’t really bring anything to the table. Of course one could also argue that a second reading is worth the extra redundancy.

    As long as we’re talking about legislatures, how about the easiest suggestion: make them bigger. The House really should have about 680-700 members if it followed the cube root of population rule, and state legislatures are mostly way too tiny (IIRC, California has more congressional representatives than state legislators per 1,000 people. That’s just wrong). Sure, we may have to seat some of the them in the gallery, or the floor, or on each other’s lap, but that’s a small price to pay. :)

    On ballot initiatives: I have mixed feelings about initiative and referendum. On the one hand, it can sometimes be the only way around entrenched interests—which is the early 20th century progressives pushed them so hard. And I think we’ll have to use a lot of ballot measures to get what we want for precisely that reason. On the other hand, they’re often written by people who have no idea what their doing. Or they’re written by entrenched interests masquerading as “we the people.”
  • Robert Edwards
    commented 2016-11-10 11:38:35 -0500
    I agree with Michael Wald with regards to the Senate in that the Senate itself and small population states will never allow that to happen, probably the only thing North Dakota and Delaware agree on. But going further, besides not being even on the table, I feel elimination of the Senate to be dangerous. The bicameral legislature is an important part of the internal checks on the legislative branch. Unicameralism at the federal level could lead to Oligarchy. I can see that happening at the state level as well, but I don’t know the structure of enough state constitutions to know for certain.

    Also, for the same reason we have the Electoral College (to support the minority opinion) I cannot support a federal ballot initiative. Ballot initiatives allow two very bad things to happen. First, mob mentality wins the day and can easily strip freedoms and rights from minority citizens. This was seen in California’s Proposition 8 back in 2008 which was overturned years later with Supreme Court rulings. Ballot initiatives allow for emotional and radical changes in constitutional law that come too easily, and then too easily shift back with the next ballot. Secondly, this is what representatives are paid to do…represent us. By putting ballot initiatives in play we allow our representatives to shirk their responsibility by not having to go on the record.

    I support term limits but just limit the existing term lengths to 2 terms like the presidency…yes that’s a lot of turnover in the House, but that’s what is supposed to happen in the body with the most power.
  • Michael Wald
    commented 2016-11-10 03:12:41 -0500
    Most of that’s fine, but getting a unicameral legislature is pretty much a non-starter. The Senate exists for a reason, it puts the states on a more equal footing. No state with a small population would dare give that up.

    Unicameral state legislatures, on the other hand, are a great idea. That was one case where Nebraska was right.
  • Gi Jack
    published this page in Whig Forums 2016-11-10 03:02:12 -0500