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US Politics Broken: How About National Referendum

by John on 10/28/2014

We bemoan voter apathy. We hate what our politics has become.

David Brooks nailed it when he writes about the damage of “partyism” on our country.

When schools, community groups and workplaces get defined by political membership, when speakers get disinvited from campus because they are beyond the pale, then every community gets dumber because they can’t reap the benefits of diverging viewpoints and competing thought. This mentality also ruins human interaction.

It also means we have no incentive to be an informed nation.

How do we overcome being stupid and apathetic? It is easy.

We need a national referendum.

That’s right. We decide on the issues. All of us can go to the polls each year vote on where we stand on the issues — not on candidates.

It should take place every November for every eligible voter. And it should be a national weekend holiday where we meet in communities in person and online to discuss the issues.

The results will be a guide for elected officials.

But such a national vote will cost taxpayers. Not really. Let’s do this. Fund the national vote with a portion of every special interest or PAC political donation.

Questions we could decide:

  • Do we need a constitutional convention? Define what the Second Amendment should really say about guns. How do we weigh privacy versus homeland security?
  • Should we ban or allow all campaign donations? The national voter decision will either agree or trump the Citizens United ruling.
  • Should we minimize the power of both political parties? Maybe we need more parties so we have a free market in politics and not an oligopoly. How about creating a parliamentary style of government?
  • On economics: should we invest in infrastructure and re-training? Do we want a balanced budget amendment? Should we abolish Obamacare? Do we raise Medicare premiums or raise age eligibility? Would you like a flat tax and abolish the IRS?
  • Are the Dallas Cowboys really America’s Team. (Just seeing if you’re paying attention.)

Tell me questions you want answered.

A national referendum would put more power in the people again – and not moneyed special interests.

A national vote would create more interest in issues – not personalities.

It would make US politics a free-market system again. We will be looking at the issues not what the two parties or their benefactors are pushing.

Yes, there needs to be more details to make this happen. For instance, would the vote be binding as a law? My take: no, elected officials need to make the final decision and craft laws that make sense. And if an elected official votes against the will of the people, they better have a good explanation. Another sticking point: voting on foreign policy and security issues. Would a vote on bombing Syria be worthwhile or dangerous?

Give me the obstacles you see.

Still, I think the time is ripe for this. Americans apathy is based on the belief that their vote or interest really doesn’t matter at a time when we have the information at our fingertips and technology to create community gatherings and town hall meetings to get many more of us engaged.

But more importantly, we are tired of the political leaders and the system of nothing being done that we have had to endure.

Give me your take.


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