We Americans have a problem. We’re supposed to be a democracy responsive to the people. But polls show that policies favored by heavy majorities of Americans don’t get legislated by either or both parties in Congress. Instead, bills are passed that a majority of people either don’t care about, or view as a betrayal of their interests. People believe this is because both major parties are dominated by special interests who provide big money contributions to run their campaigns. In addition to these financial advantages, the major parties have gained control of the electoral system by structuring the rules of the game so that third parties cannot grow and threaten their domination. How can we get around this closed system, and either make the major parties responsive to us, or see to it that third parties can be successful?
We can use the Internet to create a network of voter-driven political organizations that make big money irrelevant. Web applications like the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), developed by Nancy Bordier, make the creation of such organizations feasible. IVCS and the website being built around it will provide people with a virtual place through which they can:
- Define their own policy options and prioritize them to create policy agendas,
- Social network with others who have similar agendas to their own,
- Work together to create collective policy agendas, voting blocs, and electoral coalitions that work within existing parties or build new political parties, and
- Hold elected representatives accountable by monitoring and evaluating how well their performance matches the policy agendas of the voting blocs that have elected them to office.
The result of using IVCS will be voting blocs of various sizes, and influence. People will use the application to formulate policy agendas and then create self-organizing voting blocs and political parties around those agendas. They can use the application’s search/data mining tool to locate others whose policy agendas are most like their own, and join with them.
From the viewpoint of an individual, it may not be easy at first to organize voting blocs that develop cohesiveness and staying power, because people will have to negotiate out their differences to join together. But negotiating common agendas and crafting winning electoral strategies at the grassroots gives voters a lot more power than being hamstrung by the two major parties. The application will support such negotiations, and create the potential for so many policy agendas and voting bloc coalitions to form that it is virtually certain that new and powerful blocs, and even political parties, will emerge, grow rapidly and begin to acquire national influence.
Voting blocs will at first have only a virtual identity. But the social ties formed will be real. When the bloc members start to take the blocs into political party organizations and primaries, the transition will be made from virtual to full social reality. The application will support agenda formation and political organization better than the legacy political parties because its Policy Options Database enables voters to formulate written policy agendas for the first time in history, and use their agendas as legislative mandates to select candidates and oversee those they elect. In addition, it will provide consensus-building and collaborative tools that legacy parties have never sought to provide their supporters. The content management tools will also be better than any political party’s. The social networking tools will be far superior. The problem solving and knowledge processing tools supplied will also be better than those of any existing political party’s. Finally, state-of-the-art campaign organizing tools will be provided by third party software vendors with proven track records.
So, the application will supply a richer virtual environment for new voting blocs to emerge than anything now available. It will also support openness, transparency, and political inclusiveness within its voting blocs, as well as whatever degree of privacy and security a voting bloc wants. Voting blocs will make decisions and resolve conflicts either by consensus or by using the IVCS Voting Utility. They can also use the Utility to vote on proposed political alliances and coalitions. Blocs will be able to adapt to their environments better than traditional voting blocs, transcend the awkward stages of initial growth, and develop into new political organizations that can successfully challenge the legacy parties and the special interests that have become the driving force in the American political system.
The likelihood that national voting blocs will form and maintain themselves is great, because the yearning in America for change is great, as is the potential for many, many groups to form and fail, while giving up their members to those that survive. Most Americans want to do something about the mess we’re in. They want the political system to be responsive to the people. They’ll take advantage of IVCS because it’s the only way they can build winning voting blocs, electoral coalitions and political parties they control; select candidates for office on the basis of their own criteria (their written policy agendas); evaluate those they elect; influence them; and, finally, hold them accountable.
Since it will cost little more than time to organize and get one’s messages out by using it, the application will eliminate the need for voting blocs, political parties, and candidates to rely on contributions and special interest campaigns to get support. It will de-fang the Citizens United decision, and the influence of special interests more generally. It is the solution to the problem of how we can shift the balance back from special interest domination to government of, by, and for the people.