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A System-Changing Solution for the OWS Movement?

5:52 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

By

Nancy Bordier and Joseph M. Firestone

As the Occupy Wall Street movement grows, OWS members are weighing their options for obtaining redress of their grievances.

Holding and expanding the ground they occupy is an obvious priority. It draws worldwide attention to their grievances and increasing numbers. It gives them a place to meet, build relationships, discuss and debate their issues, and plan.

Foiling violent action on the part of the police and anarchists is a constant distraction, but it helps the movement develop rules of engagement for everybody. Civil disobedience and voluntary arrests is another avenue, as is direct action, like preventing the seizure of illegally foreclosed homes.

Seeking redress through the political process is even more problematic. Many OWS members believe it would be a futile exercise to try to get lawmakers who have been corrupted by special interests to pass laws in their favor. Using the ballot box to replace their elected representatives is difficult, if not impossible, now that the U.S. Supreme court has given corporations a green light to spend unlimited amounts of corporate funds to influence elections.

The nation’s two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans, are a major stumbling block to non-party candidates trying to win electoral victories over party-backed candidates. The parties’ grip on the nation’s electoral machinery, and their ability to raise huge amounts of money for their candidates from special interests, gives them decisive advantages over their adversaries at the ballot box.

Efforts to pass laws reforming this corrupt system appear equally futile. Few lawmakers would vote to overturn the laws (governing campaign finance, gerrymandering and elections) that get them elected and enable them to hold on to office.

Despite these obstacles, we think there is a way OWS members can use the political process to redress their grievances. It is by taking advantage of the Internet and a new web-based organizing platform to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that OWS members control.

The platform has agenda-setting tools that enable bloc and coalition members to collaboratively translate their grievances into legislative agendas. It also has consensus-building tools the blocs and coalitions can use to screen, nominate and run candidates for office at all levels of government who will enact their agendas.

While this platform and the website being built around it, reinventdemocracy.net, are still in development, it is possible that they will be available in time for OWS members to elect enough of their own representatives to shift control of Congress away from the 1% in 2012.

The Internet has already played a pivotal role in empowering the OWS movement to spread its tentacles — and tents, throughout the country and the world. It has enabled the movement to broadcast a global rallying cry that hurls the fury of the masses against the “1%” and their political bedfellows who have plunged the remaining “99%” into dire economic and financial straits.

Here in the U.S., unemployed college graduates are joining hands with trade unionists, war veterans, senior citizens, community organizers, dispossessed homeowners, the chronically homeless, and growing numbers of the 100 million Americans living in poverty, or in the category just above it. In early November, OWS demonstrators in Oakland, California, carried out a general strike that shut down its port, the fifth largest in the nation, and brought the city to a standstill.

We believe this movement is unstoppable. We also believe that it has the potential to shift the balance of power from the 1% to the 99% if its members join forces to combine the large scale collective action power of the Internet and the platform we describe below.

By so doing, they can collaboratively translate their grievances into legislative agendas, forestall efforts to embroil the movement in violent confrontations, and build winning voting blocs and coalitions to elect lawmakers who will enact their agendas into the law of the land.

Fixing the System

Currently, there are three major contenders for electoral victories in 2012. The Democratic and Republican parties, and a third party in formation, Americans Elect (AE).

The election prospects of the major party candidates are dimmed by the low regard in which a majority of voters hold the two parties and their elected representatives. A substantial majority of voters say they would consider voting for a third party candidate. That’s where AE comes in.

The unpopularity of the two major parties may give AE candidates the chance to be the exception to the rule that third party candidates usually lose. AE candidates could actually beat major party candidates if they attract the votes of two groups of voters.

The first is the 40% of the electorate that is not registered in either major party. The second are disaffected registered Democrats and Republicans who polls show would vote for a competitive third party candidate if he or she were running on a separate ballot line from either major party.

We view AE’s electoral prospects with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it would be highly desirable for a third party to run competitive candidates against major party candidates — provided it makes the parties and candidates more responsive to voters because they fear they might lose elections to the third party.

On the other hand, it would be undesirable for a third party run by a privately-run corporation like AE, whose board of directors writes the rules, to get into the process if it does not honor the will of the voters any more than the major parties.

[Note: Since AE declares itself a political party in documents addressed to state election authorities, we consider it a party even though it also defines itself as a "social welfare" organization.]

It would be even more undesirable if such a third party uses undemocratic means to nominate candidates, undermine other political parties and the political party system, and elect lawmakers unresponsive to their constituents’ demands that they address the inequality issues raised by the wealth and income gap between the 1% and the 99%.

Unfortunately, in our opinion, AE presents risks on all these fronts. Based on what we have learned about AE, we think it may turn out to be no more responsive to the wishes of the electorate than the two major parties. We also think its modus operandi might well erode fundamental democratic processes and the political party system itself.

With respect to redressing the grievances of OWS members, AE’s well-documented agenda appears to us more likely to favor the 1% than the 99%. The founders of AE and AE’s predecessor, Unity08, have frequently labeled their platform as a “centrist” platform, presumably situated in the middle of a political spectrum they appear to assume comprises a “left”, i.e. a Democratic platform, and a “right”, i.e. a Republican platform.

According to one AE spokesperson, AE’s “centrist” platform is apparently a fiscally conservative one:

“We need a fiscal plan developed that puts us on a path to reducing our debt and deficit while encouraging entitlement reform and cuts in defense and discretionary spending.”

If we are correctly reading between the lines of this statement, AE favors many of the same policies favored by the two major parties that have led to the wealth and income gap between the 1% and the 99%.

Needless to say, AE is within its rights to pursue whatever agenda it wishes. However, it is important to note that terms like “left”, “right” and “center” are widely viewed as having lost their authenticity as accurate descriptors of the electorate’s legislative preferences.

As linguist George Lakoff pointed out years ago, the claim that a “center” and “centrists” exist is empirically and statistically unfounded.

Pew Research Center corroborates Lakoff with research showing that the views of the electorate, and supposed “centrists”, diverge too widely to be categorized as “left”, “right” or “center”, according to a recent survey, Beyond Red and Blue.

The solution we advocate does not use these obsolete labels. It enables the electorate to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions around collectively-set legislative agendas that defy categorization as “left”, “right” or “center”.

These blocs and coalitions can work with political parties of their choice, but they will remain autonomous and independent of parties because they will be controlled by voters, and the needs and wants expressed in their legislative agendas will be defined by the voters that control the blocs and coalitions.

Below we describe how this solution works. In particular, we show how it compares with Americans Elect, with which it shares a number of common goals but diverges in far more important respects regarding form, substance and likely impact.

A Comparative Analysis

The system-changing solution we advocate is a web-based “bottom up” political organizing platform, the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), invented by political activist and co-author Nancy Bordier. OWS members can use the platform to join with voters of all persuasions to build self-organizing online voting blocs and electoral coalitions.

They can manage and structure their blocs and coalitions as they wish, and organize themselves in ways that prevent the emergence of organizational hierarchies that concentrate power at the top, as political parties tend to do.

They can collaboratively set transpartisan legislative agendas, which transcend the partisan ideological orientations of the major political parties, by using the IVCS agenda-setting, political organizing and consensus-building tools that will be available on reinventdemocracy.net.

They can screen, nominate and run candidates on the ballot lines of political parties of their choice, and build broad-based transpartisan electoral bases that have the voting strength needed to put their candidates in office.

This system contrasts with AmericansElect.org (AE), which we view as a “top down” solution since it is controlled by the board of directors of a single corporation. It is led by veteran Wall Street investor Peter Ackerman.

AE’s current objective is to conduct an online nominating convention to nominate a “balanced” presidential ticket for the 2012 election outside the two major parties. Based on publicly available AE documents and statements, we interpret “balanced” to mean “centrist”.

As mentioned earlier, AE appears to be targeting the 40% of voters who are not registered in the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as disaffected members of the two parties who will vote for a competitive alternative to their party’s ticket if he or she were running on a separate ballot line from either major party.

What the two solutions have in common are their goals of

– Loosening the Democratic and Republican parties’ grip on U.S. electoral processes;

– Empowering the U.S. electorate to play a much larger role in elections than the Democratic and Republican parties have previously allowed them to play;

– Enabling voters to express their political views online, compare their respective views, and screen candidates to compare candidates’ views to their own;

– Empowering voters to nominate and elect candidates who will represent the will of their constituents more closely than major party candidates have represented the will of their constituents in recent years.

The two solutions differ in just as many respects as they converge.

The IVCS solution enables voters to define any legislative agendas they wish, form as many online voting blocs and electoral coalitions as they wish, run as many candidates as they wish, for any office, and place them on the ballot line of any party they wish.

In contrast, the AE solution is attempting to draw voters into a single party, platform and nominating convention to produce a single presidential ticket, which AE plans to simultaneously place on the ballot lines in all 50 states that it states it is in the process of obtaining.

Whereas IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions can make their own rules and create non-hierarchical voting blocs and coalitions, AE’s corporate parent makes the rules and has created what appears to be a pyramid-shaped organizational hierarchy in which authority is concentrated at the top, apparently in the hands of the chairman of the board.

While IVCS blocs and coalitions can nominate any candidates they wish, AE’s bylaws and rules appear to limit voters’ nominations to those acceptable to a committee appointed by its board of directors, whose members serve at its pleasure.

Voters must nominate what AE variously defines as a “coalition ticket” and a “balanced ticket”. Article 1 of AE bylaws specify the goal of the nomination process to be that of nominating a
“coalition ticket responsive to the vast majority of citizens while remaining independent of special interests and the partisan interests of either major political party.”

According to its Pre-Convention Rules, the corporation’s “Candidate Certification Committee” determines “whether any proposed ticket is balanced” and which candidates meet meet this criterion:

[A] “ticket with two persons consisting of a Democrat and a Republican shall be deemed to be balanced. A ticket with two persons of the same political party shall be deemed to be imbalanced.” (See Section 8.0 of the bylaws.)

We see here a discrepancy. On the one hand, AE claims that the convention is the “first nonpartisan presidential nomination”. On the other hand, AE requires voters to choose candidates from the nation’s two major political parties, which are clearly partisan.

If the convention were truly “nonpartisan”, the ticket would comprise candidates that belonged to no party, since political parties are “partisan”, according to most common definitions, as are their candidates.

The bias toward a coalition Democrat and Republican presidential ticket also appears to violate AE’s core call to action, which is to “Pick a President, Not a Party”, according to a recent AE press release.

This throwback to the two major parties whose candidates AE is seeking to defeat, when combined with AE’s insistence on a “balanced ticket” comprised of a member of each party that AE is seeking to defeat, reveal what AE’s real goal might be.

We believe it is not merely to defeat major party candidates, but to replace both unpopular parties by migrating their supporters over to the Americans Elect party via a ticket comprised of at least one Democrat and one Republican.

From this perspective, AE’s underlying objective could very well be that of realigning U.S. politics around a single “centrist” party that supplants the two major parties, whose chronic electoral posturing have created a stalemate in Congress and paralyzed the federal government.

To attain this objective, AE’s spokespersons continually castigate the two major parties for being “partisan”. They claim that AE is “nonpartisan” even though its founders are on record as long-time advocates of a “centrist” agenda, and the instrument AE uses to gauge voters’ political views is biased, in our opinion, to skew results in a “centrist” direction, which is a “partisan” direction.

And even though AE says it is allowing voters to formulate the party’s platform and nominate its candidates, by expressing their views in response to an instrument containing an online survey of their views, and voting on nominees, AE’s board of directors has appointed committees to decide what the platform actually is and which candidates can be nominated.

We believe that if AE were genuinely committed to allowing voters to determine the platform, it could simply tally their responses and formulate questions corresponding to the tallies. If it were genuinely committed to allowing voters to nominate the candidates they choose, it would allow them to do so without the oversight of committees controlled by the corporation.

This potential for deviating from authenticity raises questions about the risks inherent in a political party being owned and operated by a private corporation. While AE’s corporate bylaws do give voters it qualifies the possibility of overturning AE decisions by a 2/3 vote, these allowances are virtually meaningless since few bodies ever attain a 2/3 majority. Accordingly, we find it unlikely that AE, a privately run corporation, can be held accountable by any constituency other than its board of directors.

Given this potential lack of accountability, we think it vitally important to consider the risks inherent in AE’s emergence as a political party capable of bringing about the collapse of the two major parties.

These risks are particularly relevant to the “99%” because AE’s founders, leaders and contributors appear to favor a partisan “centrist” agenda that supports the “1%” and, we suspect, are likely to do what they can to obtain from their nominating convention an agenda and candidates who will legislate in the interests of the 1% if elected.

In this light, it is well to bear in mind that the favored candidate of the founders of AE’s predecessor, Unity08, is reported to have been New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and that rumors continue to circulate that he is a prospective candidate for AE’s 2012 presidential ticket.

We list below further steps AE is taking that, in our view, may well be intended to produce a platform and ticket reflective of AE’s preferences.

While they show considerable legal ingenuity in skirting around the electoral laws that have traditionally given the two major parties unfair advantages over third party candidates, they also show a disturbing willingness to undercut traditional democratic processes.

It appears to us that they may undermine the political primary process as a whole, and pose a systemic risk of further weakening the responsiveness of the political party system to the will of the people.

Here are several examples:

1. State laws allow eligible voters to register to vote in any political party they wish, and parties do not have the power to expel any voter or prevent them from voting in a party primary.

In contrast, AE bylaws specify that any person can be “terminated from Americans Elect without prior notice by the Board”. (See sections 2.4 and 5.4 of the bylaws.)

2. AE’s online nominating convention circumvents the state-by-state primaries conducted by the two major parties without replacing them with an equally responsive alternative as far as voter-candidate interaction is concerned.

Specifically, AE asserts in its bylaws that the “secure Internet connection” that it provides voters participating in its convention is a substitute for a “physical presence” in a state. (See sections 8. and 8.1. of Americans Elect bylaws.)

Whether AE’s “Internet connection” is a desirable replacement for face-to-face caucuses and primary campaigns at the state level is a doubtful and arguable proposition.

3. Unlike government-sponsored party primaries conducted at state level in which government officials are responsible for ensuring the accurate tallying of the ballots cast, it appears that AE, a private corporation, intends to have the votes cast in its online nominating convention tallied by its own corporate employees on its own in-house computers.

If AE had instead conferred this task on a third party without ties to the organization, the accuracy of the results could have been externally verified.

4. AE’s bylaws contain a provision stipulating that its online nominating convention does not require a quorum. (See section 8.3.)

Presumably, this also means that there is no minimum number of votes that must be cast by voters in a particular state before AE can legally place its presidential ticket on its ballot lines in that state.

Whether an online nominating convention that has no quorum is a desirable and legal replacement for state-level primaries is also an arguable proposition. For it might well lead to a presidential ticket nominated by an extremely small fraction of the electorate being placed automatically and simultaneously on AE ballot lines in all 50 states.

Quite possibly AE is unconcerned by the prospect that its nominating convention and ticket are not representative or responsive to the “vast majority of citizens”, for the reason that its overriding goal may be just to place on its ballot lines the ticket its committees have teased out of its online nominating process.

Once it does so, we think it likely that large amounts of campaign financing from the 1% will be expended to make the ticket appear responsive to the “vast majority of citizens” infuriated by the conduct of the two major parties, drive AE’s newly forged electoral base to the polls to vote for AE’s ticket, and quite possibly catapult the nascent Americans Elect party and its candidates into the winner’s circle on election day.”

5. At the same time AE is loudly protesting the two major parties’ their grip on the nation’s electoral machinery, and their use of it to prevent third party candidates from winning elections, AE’s bylaws appear designed to similarly restrict competition, by preventing unwelcome external challengers who do not participate in AE’s online nominating process from challenging the process, the nominees, or the outcome.

Section 8.6 of AE bylaws state that the “exclusive means” for any candidate to get on its ballot lines is through its “internet convention”. If state laws allow a “presidential primary election vote”, these votes shall be “advisory only”.

It remains to be seen whether AE’s assertion of these unusual prerogatives will be met with legal challenges at state level when it attempts to place a ticket on its ballot lines.

What is most concerning is that these short-cuts and end-runs around democratic processes may be only the initial phase of AE’s grand realignment strategy, whose overarching goal, we suspect, is to collapse the two major parties into a single major uni-party, the Americans Elect party.

Once the corporation obtains a presidential ticket from its self-styled convention process, and places it on the ballot in all 50 states simultaneously, we expect to see unprecedented sums of special interest money expended to elect its ticket. AE candidates will join the ranks of the Democratic and Republican candidates in holding their hands out to the same special interest contributors pushing the same special interest agendas.

If AE’s ticket draws enough votes away from the two major party tickets, it could actually elect a president and vice president nominated outside the two parties. The next best outcome for AE would be that its ticket draws enough votes away from the major party candidates to prevent the election of either of them, and thereby throws the determination of the outcome of the election into the U.S. House of Representatives.

While that outcome is unpredictable, it would seriously weaken the two major parties even though it favored the fortunes of future “centrist” AE candidates whose policies might well be no different from theirs.

Going forward, we suspect that if AE’s ticket receives 5% of the vote in a respectable number of states, thereby entitling it to remain on the ballot for 2014 and 2016, it will work out the inconsistencies in its legal status and function as a full-fledged “centrist” political party running candidates for all offices at all levels of government, and not merely the presidency.

If so, based on what we have learned about AE’s past history and current trajectory, we think these candidates are likely to favor policies that benefit the 1% rather than the 99%. If such a scenario is in the offing, the IVCS solution takes on special importance, particularly to the members of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

For we think the IVCS solution, and it alone, has the potential to empower not only the OWS movement but the entire U.S. electorate to forestall a possible AE takeover of U.S. electoral and legislative processes, assuming, as we do, that such a power play and realignment around a single party may well be in the offing.

Here’s why we place such confidence in IVCS’s potential:

1. OWS members can mobilize far greater numbers of voters than AE can bring into its fold, by using IVCS tools to bring together U.S. voters of all persuasions into consensus-building processes to translate their grievances into legislative agendas.Voters using the IVCS solution have the potential to exert a far greater political impact than AE nationally and locally because AE supporters can only sit at their computers, answer AE’s questions and sit back passively while AE committees run the show. That’s because IVCS users will get more deeply involved in starting their own ongoing dialogues and debates about their own self-defined issues, setting their legislative agendas, and building and managing voting blocs and coalitions to elect their own representatives to enact their agendas.

2. The IVCS solution enables voters to counteract AE’s potential weakening of voter participation at the state level, by using IVCS tools to democratize and re-invigorate the electoral process at the grassroots.

Voting blocs and coalitions formed with IVCS tools will be able to inject a new dynamism and give-and-take into electoral politics. They will foster a healthy competition among all players, — blocs, coalitions and parties — to develop legislative agendas, negotiate common agendas with prospective candidates, and nominate and run slates of candidates that have broad popular appeal.

3. The IVCS solution will involve voters of all persuasions in developing a dynamic mix of interconnected blocs that will be constantly merging into ever larger coalitions, all seeking to develop and update common legislative agendas and forge electoral bases large enough to get their candidates elected.

4. Voters of all persuasions will use IVCS agenda-setting tools to set “transpartisan” legislative agendas that cross party lines and attract broad cross-sections of voters to their blocs and coalitions. As their numbers grow, they will be able to use IVCS consensus-building tools like the voting utility to help them make decisions.

These blocs and coalitions will spontaneously merge into a decentralized nationwide network of interconnected, interacting blocs and coalitions that supplant political parties as the driving forces of U.S. politics, even while creating alliances with democratized political parties of their choice.

5. To get their candidates on the ballot, blocs and coalitions can put them on the lines of any political party by registering sufficient numbers of their members in the party, collecting enough signatures from party members to get their candidates on the ballot, and getting out enough qualified voters to elect the candidates.

6. The IVCS solution has the potential to encourage greater numbers of candidates to run for office because they will be able to rely on the support and voting strength of IVCS-enabled voting blocs, electoral coalitions and electoral bases.

This positive dynamic will greatly reduce the influence of special interest campaign contributions in U.S. elections because these candidates will not need such contributions to get their message out. For their message will already be known to the members of the blocs and coalitions backing them, since many of them will have participated in setting the agendas and nominating the candidates in the first place.

7. Voters, and especially members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, can use the IVCS solution to usher in a “transpartisan” voter-driven era in U.S. politics that will be neither “left”, “right” nor “center”.

While there will always be “partisan” issues favored by certain “parties” of voters, IVCS provides voters unique problem-solving and consensus-building tools for reconciling differences regarding legislative priorities and collectively-setting legislative agendas.
Voters will be able to convert partisan differences into common agendas, including the partisan preferences of any political party, AE included.

IVCS consensus-building tools will enable them to build large electoral bases that permit them to outflank and outmaneuver political parties with whom they are not aligned.

Yet they can use these same tools to build winning electoral bases and coalitions with any political parties with which they wish to align around shared legislative agendas and common slates of candidates.

8. Finally, one of the most significant contributions of IVCS tools, especially the agenda-setting and political organizing tools, is that they enable voting blocs and coalitions to use their agendas as legislative mandates for which their members can hold their elected representatives accountable at the ballot box when they seek re-election.

If incumbents cannot provide tangible evidence and concrete track records showing they have exerted their best efforts to enact voters’ written legislative agendas, the voting blocs and coalitions that got them elected will defeat them when they seek re-election.

Voters will at last be able to prevent politicians from saying one thing on the campaign trail and then doing another when they are in office.

Conclusion

The members of the Occupy Wall Street movement have demonstrated an understandable reluctance to establish hierarchical structures and decision-making rules. They prefer unanimous consent over other formulas.

What we hope is that the members of the movement will recognize that the IVCS platform enables them to build non-hierarchical political organizations like the self-organizing voting blocs and coalitions described above, and use them to obtain redress of their grievances through the political process.

Their blocs and coalitions will maintain their responsiveness to their members and their fluidity because their members will be controlling them and making all the rules.

If any members disagree with the way things are going, and encounter insurmountable obstacles in their efforts to redirect the things they object to, they can exit the blocs and coalitions and start their own. They can use the same IVCS tools available to all blocs and coalitions for attracting new members.

We believe the IVCS platform is uniquely designed to empower movement members and the 99% to join forces to translate their grievances into convergent legislative agendas in the near term.

We are confident they will be able to elect enough of their own representatives to shift control of Congress away from the 1% in 2012, enact their agendas, and at the same time empower the electorate to obtain permanent control of the nation’s electoral and legislative processes and outcomes.

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com)

The Threat to Open Society and the Interactive Voter Choice System

9:12 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

The Problem

The biggest problem for Americans in our time is the increasingly dangerous threat to open society posed by the trend toward plutocracy and its effects on the political system. George Soros described the antecedents of these threats in The Age of Fallibility (pp. 100-101):

“Gradually, the methods developed for commercial purposes found a market in politics. This changed the character of politics. The original idea of elections was that candidates would come forward and announce what they stood for; and the electorate would decide whom they liked best. The supply of candidates and the preferences of the electorate were supposed to be independently given, just as in the theory of perfect competition. But the process was corrupted by the methods adopted from commercial life: focus groups and framing the messages. Politicians learned to cater to the desires of the electorate instead of propounding policies they believed in. The electorate did not remain unaffected. They chose the candidate who told them what they wanted to hear, but at the same time they could not avoid noticing that they were being manipulated; they were not surprised when their elected leaders deceived them. But there was no escape. The increasing sophistication of communication methods was built into the system. That is how America became a feel-good society. It was fostered by politicians seeking to be elected.”

One of the most damaging effects of the “feel-good society” is that the people are unable to keep politicians in check (p.96): Read the rest of this entry →

A Global View of the Interactive Voter Choice System

7:14 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

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.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests — Part II: Why the Political Context Is Favorable for A Populist Takeover of Congressional Districts Using The Interactive Voter Choice System

9:25 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

[Ed. note: This series has been re-posted by Joe Firestone (a.k.a. letsgetitdone) on behalf of author Nancy Bordier with her express permission.]

By Nancy Bordier

See the series introduction here.

Thanks to advances in Internet technologies, the obstacles the major parties and their special interest backers have erected to prevent voters from ousting their incumbents can be circumvented by voters who leverage the large scale collective action power of the Internet via the web application described in this series to get control of U.S. electoral processes. This application, the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), enables dissatisfied voters to self-organize and build voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can run winning candidates in local Congressional elections without special interest funding. The voting blocs and coalitions will be able to run candidates who can defeat special interest-backed candidates, wealthy self-funded candidates, and candidates run by special interest-backed voting blocs, such as the Tea Party, because they will be able to set transpartisan agendas that appeal to a broader-cross section of voters. These voters will decide who they want to run and what their candidates’ agendas will be.

The political context is very favorable for supporting this kind of role for the IVCS. 40% of the electorate has rejected membership in the Democratic and Republican parties. Their membership has shrunk to roughly 33% and 23%, respectively. Not all of them identify strongly with the Parties. In fact, two-thirds of all Americans favor having a third political party that would run candidates for president, Congress and state offices against Republican and Democratic candidates. With more than 80% of the electorate wanting to oust most Congressional representatives, because they favor special interests over their constituents’ interests, typical election districts have more than enough dissatisfied voters to decide who wins and loses in the 2012 Congressional elections.

Because they will be able to mobilize these voters and engage them in collectively setting transpartisan bloc agendas crossing party lines and embracing new ideas, self-organizing voting blocs, whose formation will be facilitated by the application, will be able to create winning electoral bases comprised of disaffected voters across the political spectrum. These electoral bases will be broad and transpartisan. They will be able to outflank and outmaneuver stand-alone political parties and voting blocs running special interest-backed candidates with special interest agendas.

What is unique about the IVCS application is that it empowers voters for the first time in history to set agendas that can serve as written legislative mandates to candidates and incumbents setting forth voters’ policy priorities across the board. The application enables them to use their legislative mandates to drive U.S. electoral and legislative processes every step of the way. Voters can choose their policy priorities from a database of 104 options, annotate the options, and add their own options to the database. They can then contact voters who have chosen similar priorities, and join forces with them to build voting blocs in their local Congressional election districts around shared policy agendas, using communication and collaboration tools and services provided on the website built around the application.

The application is also unique in that it enables voters to play a pro-active rather than a re-active role in U.S. elections. Voters can use their voting blocs and legislative mandates to set the terms and conditions for supporting Congressional candidates. They can use them to identify, nominate, run and elect Congressional candidates whose agendas converge with their own. When their candidates take office, they will have written legislative mandates from the constituents they represent. Voters can use them to oversee their representatives’ legislative initiatives, guide them through legislative decision-making processes, and help them decide what compromises to make in order to build support for their initiatives. Voters can also use their legislative mandates to evaluate their representatives’ track records and hold them accountable when they come up for re-election.

By enabling voters to run candidates with specific legislative mandates and use the mandates to hold them accountable, the application enables voters to close the glaring gap that has arisen in U.S. politics between voters’ policy priorities and their Congressional representatives’ priorities, and the laws voters want to see enacted and those that are actually enacted. Lawmakers will no longer feel free to cavalierly disregard the promises they make on the campaign trail once they are in office. If elected representatives cannot demonstrate that they have exerted their best efforts to implement the written legislative mandates their constituents gave them when they ran for office, the voters will be able to defeat them when they come up for re-election, even in the face of special interest funding and support.

The application also will greatly reduce or even negate the influence of special interest money in elections, and eventually may cause direct special interest contributions to dry up due to their increasing ineffectiveness. Since voters will put their own candidates on the ballot running on legislative agendas that converge with their own, the candidates will not have to solicit special interest campaign contributions to get their message out, since voters will already know what it is. Neither the blocs nor the candidates will have to pay for expensive political advertisements, since voting blocs will be able to count on their own members as the mainstay of their voting strength, as well as on their ability to reach out to the invisible, but very real and powerful foundation of American political dynamics, their own local influence networks of friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to get out a winning vote on election day.

In addition, by enabling voters to set their policy agendas across the board, the application also enables voters to mobilize a broader electoral base around a larger repertory of priorities than existing political parties or special interest-funded voting blocs, like the Tea Party. Moreover, as described below, the application, especially its Voting Utility, allows voting blocs to easily and pragmatically modify their agendas to enlarge their electoral base quickly, increasing their chances of defeating opponents whose agendas are constrained by fixed, special interest ideologies.

Significantly, the application will shift the locus of political debate from the national to the local level, where voters will be continuously engaged in debating the policy options they want to include in their agendas, updating the legislative mandates they give to their elected representatives as legislation moves through Congress, negotiating common agendas with other blocs and coalition members, selecting their nominees, collecting signatures to put them on the ballot, and getting out the vote to elect their candidates in primary and general elections.

Voters will be able to team up locally with their candidates and elected representatives to devise pragmatic, workable policy solutions to national crises that the stalemated U.S. Congress appears unable to resolve, such as the economic recession, and the failure of the economy to generate the jobs needed by American workers. Voters can use the application to transform their local communities into seed beds of democratic public policy formation that serves the public interest, and prevents special interests from dictating public policy at the federal level.

Moreover, the citizen-managed policy dialogues that grassroots voting blocs engender, will overshadow the mass media disinformation campaigns that dupe undiscerning voters and turn political discourse in the U.S. into verbal slugfests. Since the website built around the application will provide voting bloc members state-of-the-art one-to-one and one-to-many messaging, networking, and collaboration capabilities, voters will be able to communicate with each other instantaneously to share and objectively screen and vet critical information. They will be able to debunk the political disinformation, innuendo and propaganda emanating from the corporate-funded campaign advertisements that will be flooding the country as a result of the Citizens United decision.

In addition to online messaging, voting bloc members working within a Congressional district will be able to hold "town hall" meetings where they can get together, face-to-face and online, with other bloc members and non-bloc voters to express, debate and reconcile their views — by using the application’s Voting Utility to vote on them if necessary. Voting blocs engendered by this application may well be unique in their capacity to institute democratic consensus-building processes at all levels of government by electing representatives who will see to it that such processes replace undemocratic ones like the Senate’s filibuster, and become the norm in all public policy decision-making arenas.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving, Fiscal Sustainability, and Reinventing Democracy)

2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests: A Series

11:43 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

[Ed. note: This series has been re-posted by Joe Firestone (a.k.a. letsgetitdone) on behalf of author Nancy Bordier with her express permission.]

By Nancy Bordier

The electorate’s dissatisfaction with the nation’s lawmakers has reached a critical stage. A majority of U.S. voters want to see most elected representatives in Congress defeated because they favor special interests over voters’ interests. Unfortunately, legal obstacles erected by the two major parties prevent voters from replacing most of these representatives unless they use the revolutionary self-organizing tools described in this series to work around them.

These obstacles range from federal and state election laws to campaign finance laws and Supreme Court decisions that favor private over public funding of elections. Voters can’t change these laws within the foreseeable future. But they can circumvent them at the Congressional election district level. The web savvy 125 million voters who use the Internet to influence the outcome of the 2008 elections can use new web technologies to leverage the collective action power of the Internet and elect a majority of Congressional representatives untainted by special interests in 2012.

These technological advances, particularly the web application discussed in this series, enable voters to build winning transpartisan voting blocs in their Congressional election districts. These blocs can:

  • Operate within existing political parties, across party lines or in new parties;
  • Form broad-based electoral coalitions with other blocs, parties and labor unions that can outflank and outmaneuver stand-alone parties running special interest-backed candidates;
  • Engage broad-cross sections of the electorate in setting legislative agendas which they can use to hold incumbents accountable at the ballot box;
  • Stop the spread of special interest propaganda and disinformation by engaging the electorate in informed consensus-building at the grassroots;
  • Run winning candidates untainted by special interest campaign contributions against militant fringe group candidates;
  • Elect representatives who will break the political stalemate in Congress between the two major parties by removing anti-majoritarian rules like the Senate’s filibuster.

Voters can bring these possibilities to fruition through the breakthrough web-based technologies described in Parts I – V of this series.

(The document can be read in its entirety here.)

Part I. The U.S. Electorate versus the U.S. Congress

The most irate, aggrieved voters are being mobilized by special interests into a new hybrid voting bloc that resembles the bloc the Republican Party used as its electoral base to drive the country rightward, and gain control of government for the better part of 40 years. The IVCS application enables mainstream voters across the political spectrum to build transpartisan voting blocs that can outflank and outmaneuver special interest-funded voting blocs, and elect a majority of representatives to Congress who are untainted by these interests. More . . .

Part II. Why the Political Context Is Favorable for a Populist Takeover of Congressional Election Districts Using the Interactive Voter Choice System

40% of the electorate has rejected membership in the Democratic and Republican parties. Their membership has shrunk to roughly 33% and 23%, respectively, and not all of their members identify strongly with the parties. With more than 80% of the electorate wanting to oust most Congressional representatives, because they favor special interests over their constituents’ interests, typical election districts have more than enough dissatisfied voters to decide who wins and loses in the 2012 Congressional elections.

Part III. Why and How Congressional Elections Can Be Won by Transpartisan Voting Blocs in 2012

The number of voters needed to put Congressional candidates on the ballot in party primaries is small and often requires less than 10,000 signatures on nominating petitions. Also, primary elections are often decided by a small number of votes. In addition, only a plurality of voters is needed to win an election. (U.S. election laws permit candidates to be elected without a majority of all votes cast; they just need to get more votes than any other candidate.) Voters determined to oust their representatives can take advantage of these low numbers and use the IVCS application to build transpartisan voting blocs that run winning candidates in primary and general elections in 2012.

Part IV. How Voters Can Build Transpartisan Voting Blocs and Use Legislative Mandates to Get Control of Electoral and Legislative Processes

Individual voters can use the application’s tools to set their policy agendas. They can then form voting blocs with like-minded voters around shared agendas, and run winning candidates in their Congressional District.

Voters can use these agendas as legislative mandates to set the terms and conditions for supporting Congressional candidates. They can also use them to oversee their representatives’ legislative initiatives, guide them through legislative decision-making processes, and help them decide what compromises to make in order to build support for their initiatives. Voters can also use their legislative mandates to evaluate their representatives’ track records and hold them accountable when they come up for re-election.

Part V. How Voting Blocs Can Expand Their Electoral Bases by Increasing Their Membership and Building Electoral Coalitions with Existing Parties, New Parties, Labor Unions and Other Membership-Based Groups

Voting blocs can use the application’s consensus-building tools to increase bloc membership and build electoral coalitions that increase their overall voting strength to the levels required to win Congressional elections in 2012. As voters seeking to build coalitions negotiate alternative combinations of options, they will simultaneously solve the contrived conflicts over legislative initiatives that political partisans and special interests have created to inflame voters’ passions and prejudices, divide the electorate into hostile camps, and create the appearance of Congressional stalemates to camouflage their obedience to special interest agendas.

Conclusion

Voters can elect a majority of untainted Congressional representatives in 2012 if public-spirited citizens, political activists and web technologists join forces to weave together breakthrough democracy-building technologies like the Interactive Voter Choice System into user-friendly seamless applications.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving, Fiscal Sustainability, and Reinventing Democracy)

Preventing the Collapse of Democracy with the Interactive Voter Choice System

6:35 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

By

Nancy Bordier and Joseph M. Firestone

Overview

The two of us met recently at an AmericaSpeaks event in Fairfax, VA, on June 26th. We decided independently to attend the event, but for the same reason. We wanted to protest the undue attention being given the federal budget deficit compared to the far more critical need to restore job-creating economic growth. Increasing tax revenues by getting the unemployed into new jobs is a more effective way to reduce the deficit than self-defeating cuts in entitlement expenditures. We also wanted to protest the bias built into the event, which Joe later analyzed in a seven part series, The Procrustean Democracy of AmericaSpeaks.

After the AmericaSpeaks event, we discussed the problem of powerful special interests that mislead the public, distort U.S. priorities and deform public policies. A prime example is the billionaire deficit hawk who is advocating entitlement cuts and funded the event. We agreed that the increasing enfeeblement of the electorate is part of the problem. Voters’ influence over the agendas of the Democratic and Republican parties and their elected representatives grows weaker as the influence of the business and financial interests that finance the parties and the campaigns of their candidates grows stronger.

Corporate-funded mainstream media have joined forces with the compromised parties and their elected representatives to put special interest priorities in the limelight, and create a political climate conducive to the enactment of public policies they favor, to the detriment of the public interest. Governing officials who should be protecting the American people from predatory special interests have joined forces with them to further their depredations.

They have facilitated the bloating of the financial services sector at the expense of the real economy, the job base and working Americans’ share of national income. The result is a sharp increase in the upward redistribution of public and private wealth to those who are already wealthy, especially those in the financial services sector, and the increasing impoverishment of middle class and working Americans who cannot find jobs that pay living wages.

The recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC has now set the stage for a complete collapse of democracy by giving corporations free rein to spend unlimited amounts of corporate funds to elect pro-business candidates. They can put hundreds of millions of dollars into a single campaign to dominate every messaging channel and use slick, emotionally-tinged political advertisements to dupe undiscerning, low information voters into voting against their own interests for politicians who will ignore them once they are in office, to do the bidding of their special interest campaign financiers.

At this point, Nancy mentioned her patent pending invention, the Interactive Voter Choice System. Its mission is to empower voters across the political spectrum to get control of political parties, elections and legislative decision-making by leveraging the collective action power of the Internet.

The invention, a web-based application, provides voters free tools and services for setting their policy agendas across the board, in writing, for the first time in history, in order to re-set the nation’s priorities from the grassroots, and build trans-partisan voting blocs and electoral coalitions around their agendas that can elect representatives who will enact them into law.

The invention’s consensus-building tools and services empower voters to use their voting blocs to form broad-based electoral coalitions that have the voting strength needed to run and elect candidates to office, on existing party lines or new party lines. They enable the members of voting blocs and electoral coalitions to negotiate common agendas among virtually unlimited numbers of voters of diverse political persuasions. They can use their blocs and coalitions to get control of existing parties so they can run their candidates on party lines, or create new parties.

Nancy also expressed the view, and Joe agreed, that none of the current strategies for ousting special interests and the elected representatives they control will make much of a difference in the near term, either singly or in combination, especially since it is unlikely that campaign finance laws and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision can be reversed in the foreseeable future. The power of corporate cash fused with the electoral clout of the two major political parties and the legislative clout of party-backed elected representatives has created a political juggernaut which has repeatedly demonstrated its capacity to outmaneuver efforts to replace incumbents and reform the system.

Karl Popper thought that the primary virtue of democracy is that it provides people with a peaceful way to change their leaders when they no longer approve of their leadership. The U.S. political system, however, is falling way short of this core virtue. The large majority of elected representatives are re-elected time after time even though polls show that a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with their performance and want to see most representatives defeated. They are especially adamant about replacing Congressional representatives whom they believe are more interested in serving special interests than the people they represent.

Yet these rogue legislators cling to office despite widespread popular opposition. They can do so because the party-engineered gerrymandering of the boundaries of electoral districts have created "safe seats" for most representatives, who use their corporate-funded campaign war chests to mislead and even dupe their constituents about their intentions and track records when they are on the campaign trail. They also benefit from campaign finance laws and federal and state election laws that make it virtually impossible for most insurgent candidates and third parties to win elections.

Evidence that the parties have deliberately skewed electoral processes to prevent the election of candidates who genuinely represent the people can be found in the anomalous fact that there are only two Independent elected representatives in Congress even though approximately 40% of the electorate has been comprised of Independent and non-affiliated voters for many years.

If Independents held 40% of the seats in Congress, they could break the stalemate between the Democrats and Republicans. They could also revoke rules like the Senate’s filibuster, which enables a single member representing a tiny minority of the electorate to bloc legislation and prevent the democratic rule of the majority of American voters.

Even in the rare instances when incumbents are replaced, newcomers backed by the two major parties typically follow in their predecessors’ footsteps and betray their campaign promises by enacting legislation that favors the special interests that financed their campaigns and those of their predecessors. The process essentially puts these interests beyond voters’ reach, which is especially harmful to the public interest when they possess massive global financial and economic power.

Nancy argued that since corrupted lawmakers routinely block attempts to change the laws that provide them and their financial backers "safe seats" from which to control legislation, voters must change the system from below. With her invention, voters can leverage the collective action power of the Internet to remedy the failure of representative government in the U.S. without changing any laws.

When Joe expressed interest in Nancy’s invention, she invited him to go to the prototype website built around it and share his thoughts about its capacity to engender a voter takeover of U.S. electoral and legislative processes. After a month of exchanging emails and phone chats, and a long lunch in Arlington, the two of us appear to be largely in agreement that the invention, in combination with Web 2.0 applications that facilitate social networking and online collaboration, and eventually Web 3.0 and 4.0 technologies, has a unique capacity to empower voters to create popular political coalitions that can achieve electoral accountability and grassroots control of government.

Self-organizing voting blocs originating and maintaining themselves through the Interactive Voter Choice System could replace special interest, corporatist, and minority rule in Congress with majority rule in just a few election cycles. They could break the stalemate between Democratic and Republican representatives who have demonstrated their inability to legislate solutions to the severe crises plaguing the country that serve the public interest.

The purpose of this post is to share the results of our exchanges. We’ll summarize the premises and diverse capabilities of the IVCS web application, and show how it empowers U.S. voters to prevent the pending collapse of democracy in the U.S. by joining forces to elect representatives who will enact voters’ policy mandates into law.

Premises

The core premise of the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) is that voters who want to get control of government will embrace the system because it is the only way they can get control of government, once again. U.S. voters across the political spectrum are so dissatisfied with their elected representatives that they will take advantage of the first effective mechanism that is made available to them at the local and national levels to oust these representatives from office.

Assuming that polls like the recent CBS News-New York Times poll are correct that 80% of voters want to see most representatives defeated, what dissatisfied voters in a typical Congressional district need to do so, is an application like IVCS that enables them to get control of elections, namely, by setting a common policy agenda and creating a common slate of candidates that attracts enough votes to elect them to office. They can run their slate on the ballot lines of existing parties or create new parties. It is important to keep in mind the fact that incumbent Democrats and Republicans in Congress are often elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with less than 100,000 votes in a typical Congressional district, especially in gerrymandered districts. (Each district comprises a total population of approximately 600,000.)

To get elected, a candidate needs only a plurality of votes cast, i.e. the most votes cast rather than a majority of all votes cast. With polls showing that 80% of Americans want to see their elected representatives replaced, most typical districts are likely to have at least a plurality of discontented voters who will oust their representatives if they have an effective mechanism for doing so. We believe the IVCS application is that mechanism.

The Internet and IVCS make it relatively easy for voters to take the reins of U.S. electoral processes, which we believe they will, based on surveys showing that the Internet has become the primary channel for popular participation in elections. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 125 million people used the Internet to participate in all phases of the 2008 presidential election, a number approaching the 131 million people who actually voted in the election. Web savvy voters who use the IVCS application are numerous enough to replace most elected representatives.

The gateway to this usage is already well-traveled and the access tools well-known, thanks to the fact that the IVCS application enables all 125 million Internet users to employ the same social networking technologies as Facebook, which now has 500 million members worldwide. Voters who use IVCS will be able to add friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to their politically-oriented social networks just as they do on Facebook, as well as like-minded voters with similar policy priorities whom they meet for the first time on the IVCS website.

A key related premise of the IVCS application is that people can and will self-organize around specific policy preferences and priorities. Despite the elitist argument that voters are only capable of expressing broad value preferences but lack the capacity to set legislative agendas or formulate policies, voters have consistently demonstrated they are entirely capable of articulating specific policy priorities even in complex and highly technical legislative battles.

A majority of U.S. voters did so recently during the complicated health care debate by persistently supporting the single payer option in the face of the concerted opposition of their Congressional representatives, who refused to put it on the table. Despite the complexity of the fraudulent Wall Street practices that brought down the nation’s banking system and economy, a majority of the population has steadfastly opposed lawmakers’ bailouts of the banks and financial institutions that were responsible.

Moreover, voters are capable of scrutinizing an intricate array of policy options, as demonstrated by thousands of people across the country who participated in the recent AmericaSpeaks event. They selected their preferred policy options from a list of 42 options for cutting the federal budget deficit that organizers were projecting (and the two of us were opposing). Voters are also capable of formulating their own options (as the two of us tried to do during the event, though without much success given the highly structured and, we think, biased nature of the proceedings).

Based on the outcome of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, another premise of the IVCS application is that the online organizing that will be fostered by the application will be a determining force in future elections. The Obama campaign used online social networking technologies similar to those used by the application to mobilize millions of Millennial generation voters, who were reported to have given him 90% of his victory margin. Thanks to the Internet and social networking technologies, voting blocs that use the IVCS application will be able to perform all the functions of political campaigns and political parties. In addition to recruiting new members on-line, they will also be able to form broad-based trans-partisan electoral coalitions that can acquire the voting strength to take over existing parties, or create new ones, to elect coalition-backed candidates.

How the Application Works

One of the most important functions of the application is to enable U.S. voters across the political spectrum to make their voices heard without the interference of manipulative politicians who claim to speak for voters. It enables voters who use the IVCS application to identify, debate and resolve their differences by themselves in arenas that are not controlled by the mass media or dominated by attention-grabbing pundits, politicians or party officials trying to ignite controversies in order to keep themselves in the limelight.

Surveys show that a majority of Americans share largely consensual policy preferences, suggesting that the acclaimed polarization of American public opinion is more likely to be an artifact of the two parties’ electoral machinations and manipulation of public opinion, than an accurate reflection of voters’ actual stances. One such survey, conducted just after the 2008 presidential election, demonstrates that this consensus remains intact. A majority of Americans across all demographic and political lines, by a greater than 2:1 majority, want government to ensure that everyone has at least a basic standard of living and level of income — even if it increases government spending. They prefer a government that actively tries to solve the problems facing society and the economy rather than one that stands on the sidelines.

The failure of the nation’s elected representatives to enact this emerging policy consensus into law has led to a voter revolt in which a majority of Americans want to throw their elected representatives out of office. The IVCS application is designed to enable them to defeat these representatives, and run and elect candidates who will implement voters’ legislative priorities. Here’s how:

Step 1. Setting Agendas, Resetting the Nation’s Priorities and Building Voting Blocs.

Unlike other voter mobilization applications such as those of the Tea Party and the Coffee Party, the IVCS application is a bottom-up organizing tool, designed to enable voters and voter mobilization groups to build consensus across voting blocs, and negotiate common policy agendas that they can use to form broad-based electoral coalitions. These coalitions will give them the voting strength they need to win elections against major party candidates they oppose. We believe the application can play a unique and unprecedented role in enabling voting blocs and voter mobilization groups taking on the two major parties to avoid fragmenting the dissatisfied majority of the U.S. electorate into political splinter groups too small to win elections, especially at the presidential level.

The IVCS application is unique in its capacity to empower voters to set their agendas across the board and use them to build trans-partisan voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions with common agendas which can run candidates and elect representatives who will enact them into law — without fragmenting the electorate into splinter groups that are too small to win elections. Indeed, IVCS tools and services enable voters and voter mobilization groups to build voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions of virtually unlimited size around negotiated trans-partisan policy agendas.

It does so by providing voters and voter mobilization groups across the political spectrum a comprehensive Policy Options Database from which they can set an agenda comprising the policies they wish to see enacted into law. (Click here to view a prototype of the database.) The options cross party lines and advocate divergent and even diametrically opposed policy choices. (Voters can add additional options and update their agendas at any time.)

The trans-partisan comprehensiveness of this database is in sharp contrast to the policy platforms of typical voter mobilization groups, and political parties. Most options in the IVCS database do not refer to a specific political party, due to the application’s mission of encouraging voters across the political spectrum to find common ground across political party lines. Moreover, voters are not asked to identify their political party or ideological stance (e.g. conservative, liberal, etc.) since research shows that when voters can freely choose their preferred policy options and are not restricted to a limited set of options, those they choose cut across party lines and ideologies. This contrasts sharply with the limited choices provided by most voter mobilization groups, such as the Coffee Party and the Tea Party.

Unlike IVCS, such organizations leverage the Internet and social networking technologies to recruit members and build an electoral base around a specific set of priorities. They invite people who are interested in the organizations’ priorities to create accounts on their websites so they can communicate with other members, participate in local events sponsored by the organizations and even attend national party conventions. They require prospective members to provide their email address in order to register. This contact enables the organizations to email them newsletters and simultaneously solicit donations of money to run the organizations, get their message out and influence elections. The precipitous rise of these web-based voter mobilization organizations shows that they recognize the potential of the Internet to enable them to perform all the functions of national political parties.

In contrast to this centrally organized approach, the IVCS application is a bottom up organizing tool designed to enable individual voters at the grassroots to create their own voting blocs around their own policy priorities. While organized voter mobilization groups can also use the application, it is nonetheless designed first and foremost to encourage and facilitate voter self-mobilization and the formation by individual voters of self-organizing voting blocs.

The application is also designed to facilitate the formation of consensus among diverse voting blocs and the creation by them of winning electoral coalitions — in contrast to voter mobilization groups that seek to differentiate themselves and their membership from each other, and, if possible, lure away each others’ supporters. While the Coffee Party is on record as espousing civility and eschewing divisiveness, the Tea Party, and other more aggressive voter mobilization groups, tend to focus on controversial and divisive issues. They use them to criticize and even caricaturize the positions of competing organizations in order to attract new supporters, reinforce the loyalty of current supporters, and convince the supporters of competing organizations to come over to their side.

To help voters who use the IVCS application weigh their policy alternatives, all options contain links to online sources of information describing the pros and cons of the options from a diverse array of vantage points. Voters can propose additional links, which are updated continuously.

Voters can select any number of priorities, rank order them, if they wish, from most to least preferred, define different agendas for different purposes, update their agendas whenever their priorities change and save all their agendas in their own personal archive on the website for future reference. They can display all their priorities, or preferred clusters of priorities, on their personal web pages on the website. They can also email their agendas to whomever they wish, such as their elected representatives.

Once voters have set their agendas, they can compare them to the agendas set by other voters. They can make these comparisons by entering their priorities into the IVCS Policy Priorities Database. Once they have entered their priorities, they can then query the database to find out how many voters have agendas that contain priorities that are statistically similar to their own and how many voters share with them clusters of similar priorities, or even a single priority.

They can ask for the ZIP codes of these voters so they will know in what states, counties, and electoral districts they live. They can also ask for the usernames and internal email addresses of voters whose policy priorities are similar to their own, based on the information they provided when they registered. In response to their query, inquirers will receive a list of the usernames of voters who share their policy priorities, their ZIP codes and their internal email addresses so they can contact them directly via internal email.

It should be noted that by contributing their priorities to the IVCS Policy Priorities Database, voters will be joining with other voters throughout the country in resetting the nation’s policy priorities, since statistical reports summarizing voters’ priorities will be published periodically on the IVCS website. This unprecedented voter-initiated survey of policy priorities will be uniquely free of special interest or party bias and external constraints. IVCS users can take advantage of the published reports to see how their priorities compare with those of voters nationwide.

In addition to identifying and contacting like-minded voters, IVCS users (and voting blocs they establish) can also request database information of interest to them showing persistent patterns of policy priorities chosen by voters nationally and by ZIP code, as well as emerging trends and shifts in priorities that may result from political factors, such as lawmakers’ statements related to pending legislative proposals and actions that voters favor or oppose; media coverage involving politicians and pundits; changing economic conditions, such as employment rates, etc.

Voters can send the results of their database queries to the news media, elected representatives and candidates to publicize the degree to which voters’ preferences converge with, or diverge from, those espoused by representatives, candidates, political parties, advocacy groups, special interests and pundits, or those attributed to voters by these individuals and groups.

When media attention is focused on clashes between voters’ policy priorities and elected representatives’ statements and legislative track records, they will be pressured to change course if the divergences appear severe enough to raise doubts about their electability in the future.

Voters will be able to increase their political clout not only by publicizing their views and priorities in the media but by joining forces with like-minded voters to create voting blocs and electoral coalitions that can get their priorities enacted into law. If they join forces to influence the political process, their relationships will be unique among those of the 125 million Americans who use the Internet to exert political influence because they will owe their origin to initially shared policy agendas chosen from the same database. While many of the 346,000,000 people globally who use the Internet to post their views on blogs do so to contrast their views and debate their differences, IVCS users can create relationships around already shared policy preferences.

Voters who query the Policy Priorities Database to find and contact other voters with similar policy priorities can add these voters to their personal networks on the IVCS website, and vice versa, just as Facebook members add "Friends" to their networks so they can use social networking tools for one-to-one and one-to-many messaging. They can then access each others’ networks, if allowed, and begin to expand the number of voters in their personal networks who share their priorities.

If the relationships among IVCS users with similar priorities who contact each other endure, and if, after examining their representatives’ legislative track records they decide that the incumbents are not exerting their best efforts to enact their priorities into law, they can join forces to influence forthcoming elections to elect representatives who will, by transforming their personal networks into groups hosted on the website that can function as voting blocs. They can

1. Give their group a name

2. Create a registration process for new members

3. Establish a mailing list so they can email messages to all their members simultaneously, to send newsletters and invite members to participate in online and face-to-face events sponsored by the group as a whole, or by individual members.

4. Post their agenda on the group’s home page on the website, if they wish

5. Decide how much access to their group and its activities they want to give non-members.

6. If they wish to recruit new members to their group, they can post its name and a link to it on the IVCS website’s homepage. They can also add links to their group’s site from external sites.

Group members can take advantage of the website’s chat and forum features to discuss their agenda, consider proposals to update them to take account of major events and changing conditions, and plan how they can use their agendas to put pressure on their representatives and influence upcoming elections.

They can add links to their group’s web pages connecting their members to websites that provide information about elected representatives of interest, including their legislative votes, sources of the campaign funds they receive, speeches, public statements, press releases and stories about them published in the media. The IVCS website itself will provide all its members an exhaustive set of links to websites that they can use to zero in on specific legislative issues, documents related to these issues, and the actions of legislative committees and voting bodies affecting these issues.

It is in this context of direct interaction with elected representatives that the policy agendas which voters create using the IVCS application can truly transform U.S. electoral and legislative politics. For the agendas, backed by the voting blocs formulating them, create an unprecedented lever of individual and collective control over the entire U.S. political process, by serving as a written mandate that voters can use in a quasi-contractual sense to set the terms and conditions according to which they will vote for or against any electoral candidate, or put any candidates on the ballot, and vote for them in primary and general elections.

Agendas can thus serve not only as mandates, but rating tools for evaluating announced candidates and recruiting prospective candidates, as well as monitoring tools for tracking and overseeing elected representatives’ legislative actions. The agendas can also be used to structure online, as well as face-to-face, debates among candidates that are run by, and for the voters, rather than reporters and journalists, who typically let candidates weasel out of giving clear, unequivocal answers to voters’ questions. Voting blocs can request that candidates discuss particular policy priorities, how they envisage getting support from their Congressional colleagues to move them through the various stages in the legislative process, and their analysis of the prospects for getting them enacted.

In effect, voters can use across-the-board agendas to wield real clout in negotiating with their representatives and candidates, specific policy-based terms and conditions for giving them their votes at the ballot box, instead of wasting time writing ineffectual letters to compromised representatives about single issues; or signing petitions launched by voter mobilization groups to influence representatives who have already sold their votes to special interests. If incumbents cannot provide tangible proof that they have exerted their best efforts to implement specific policy priorities contained in voters’ agendas, they will not get their votes.

Incumbents and first-time candidates will no longer be able to get elected just by talking through their hats. They will have to have credible IVCS agendas in hand that converge with voters’ agendas, supported by concrete evidence showing they can be trusted to do their best to enact them into law.

To institute such unprecedented voter-representative relationships based on written policy mandates, IVCS-enabled groups can request that elected representatives and candidates state and email them their policy agendas, using the IVCS Policy Options Database, accompanied by tangible evidence of prior support of voters’ policy priorities. Then voters can compare their own agendas with the agendas of representatives and candidates, and their track records. If the agendas converge and the track records reflect best efforts, the group can pledge to vote for them in the next election.

On the other hand, if their respective agendas diverge, or the group is dissatisfied with the representatives’ track record, the group can decide to transform itself into a voting bloc aimed at ousting them and running and electing their own representatives. Such a course of action is feasible, since voting blocs can put candidates on existing parties’ primary and general election ballots, with or without the support of organized parties, and get them elected if they can mobilize enough voters behind their candidates.

Once the group has decided to move from dialogue to action and transform itself into a voting bloc that becomes a major player in targeted elections, members may wish to create an organizational structure, if they have not already done so, to divide up and share the various tasks involved in electoral campaigns.

To help them plan and execute their campaigns, the IVCS website will partner with organizations that have developed state-of-the-art, cost-effective tools for raising funds online, putting candidates on the ballot, and mobilizing voters behind slates of candidates. They can also use IVCS tools and services to build broad-based electoral coalitions that have winning electoral bases, as described below.

Step 2. Building Electoral Coalitions, Debunking Political Disinformation, and Defusing Hate-Based Politics

Voting blocs using the IVCS application can be built around any set of policy issues and priorities and target elections at any government level and any number of states, including all 50 states.

We anticipate, however, that many blocs with significant clusters of members in specific states will initially decide to focus their attention on influencing elections in a single state, e.g. elections of the state’s representatives in Congress. By focusing attention on electoral races where their current members are clustered, they can potentially exert a direct and decisive influence over the most fundamental and decisive electoral activity of all — the nomination of candidates to run for office.

Even though most media attention in U.S. politics is focused at the national level, especially on the interactions between the president and Congress, none of these elected officials can get elected unless enough local voters sign nominating petitions to meet state requirements for putting them on the ballot and then vote for them in primary and general elections.

Moreover, despite all the hype, Congressional elections are no less important than presidential elections, because Congress holds the purse strings and the president is dependent on their authorizations to implement his legislative proposals.

As we have seen, in the case of the number of signatures required to put a candidate for Congress on the ballot, the number is small compared to the number of votes cast, which is also small compared to the number of eligible voters. Moreover, the growing number of dissatisfied voters identified in recent surveys makes it much easier for insurgent candidates to receive a plurality of votes cast once they get on the ballot.

At the outset, IVCS users who create voting blocs to influence Congressional elections in their state may not have enough members to put candidates on the ballot and elect them without undertaking concerted efforts to increase their numbers by creating electoral coalitions with other voting blocs, voter mobilization organizations and, possibly, existing political parties.

To build popular coalitions that can win Congressional elections, whether they are transient or long lasting, emerging voting blocs are likely to find it necessary to negotiate with prospective coalition partners shared agendas that attract broad cross-sections of voters, agendas that comprise trans-partisan sets of policy priorities that cut across traditional ideologies and party lines.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that the IVCS application enables voters not only to build broad-based consensus among disparate groups and voting blocs, but simultaneously to shift the locus of political debate from the national level to the local level, where the critical issues facing the nation can be solved by fair-minded citizens, rather than left to fester in the hands of conflict-fomenting lawmakers.

To build coalitions that can oust these dysfunctional officials from office, voters may decide that the most effective course of action is to devise among themselves pragmatic compromises to the burning political controversies that politicians keep stoking in Washington, D.C. to increase their re-election prospects. These controversies include, in particular, those relating to the relationship between government and the private sector and the extent to which government should regulate the practices of businesses, banks and financial institutions; or transfer public funds into private hands, whether they are banks, automobile manufacturers or insurance companies.

The IVCS application intertwines the processes of conflict resolution with coalition building, by providing voters eight outreach mechanisms for simultaneously building consensus about policy priorities and expanding the number of voters belonging to trans-partisan electoral coalitions to give them the voting strength needed to elect their candidates. All of them take advantage of the application’s unprecedented outreach tool for engaging U.S. voters of all political persuasions in an entirely new consensus-formation and coalition-building political activity; namely setting their policy agendas across the board, in writing, and building voting blocs and electoral coalitions around shared agendas. Significantly, they will be assisted in this endeavor by the IVCS Voting Utility, which enables the members of existing voting blocs and prospective coalition partners to vote on any issue, including which priorities they want to include or exclude from common agendas.

IVCS voting blocs seeking to increase their membership and form electoral coalitions can invite prospective members and allies to set their policy agendas using the Policy Options Database, to provide them a basis of comparison, and see how much convergence there is with respect to the policy priorities they have each selected. If their stances are sufficiently similar on issues they mutually regard as fundamental, so as to indicate that they might be able to agree on common slates of candidates who share their agendas, they can proceed to create a formally organized coalition through which they can join forces to screen and select candidates, put them on the ballot, and elect them in primaries and general elections. They can then use IVCS tools for creating a single group on the IVCS website which includes all their members and provides the leadership of the coalition, and all members, one-to-one and one-to-many messaging tools.

On the other hand, if they are in agreement on fundamental priorities, but disagree strongly on other priorities that are part of each other’s agendas, they will have to figure out whether these discrepancies are a deal-breaker with respect to forming a coalition. If necessary, they can put the matter to a vote by their respective memberships using the IVCS Voting Utility. The members of the two blocs can vote separately on which priorities they want to include in a common agenda, and which ones they are willing to drop in order to join forces to obtain the voting strength that coalition candidates will need to defeat their opponents in the election. If a majority consensus emerges on which priorities to include and exclude, the coalition can come into existence and move to the next set of strategic and tactical decisions, including decisions on a common slate of candidates, and collecting the signatures required to get them on the ballot.

Below is a list of eight IVCS outreach mechanisms through which voting blocs can attain the numerical voting strength they need to win elections. They can:

1. Search the list of existing IVCS-enabled voting blocs that the blocs have elected to post on the IVCS website, to identify prospective coalition partners and contact those with priorities similar to their own. If they are willing, they can open negotiations to create shared agendas using the IVCS Policy Options Database. If a consensus emerges, they can proceed to see if they can select common slates of candidates.

2. Contact external voter mobilization groups with similar agendas and, if they are willing, open negotiations to create shared agendas using the IVCS Policy Options Database. If a consensus emerges, they can proceed to see if they can select common slates of candidates.

3. Contact labor unions with state and local chapters. If they are willing, open negotiations to create shared agendas using the IVCS Policy Options Database. If a consensus emerges, they can proceed to see if they can select common slates of candidates.

4. Recruit new non-IVCS members by advertising their voting bloc, its agenda and action plans in venues outside of the IVCS website. Invite prospective members to set their policy agendas using the IVCS Policy Options Database. After submitting their priorities to the IVCS Policy Priorities Database, the prospective members can then query the database to compare their agendas with the bloc’s agenda. If they find that they share a sufficient number of shared priorities with bloc members, they can opt to join the bloc.

5. Invite like-minded friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to set policy agendas, using the IVCS Policy Options Database, submit them to the IVCS Policy Priorities Database, and then query the database to see whether their agendas comprise a sufficient number of shared priorities to motivate them to join the voting bloc.

6. Invite newly registered IVCS members to join their bloc by continuously querying the Policy Priorities Database, to locate and contact new voters in their electoral districts who have recently submitted policy agendas with policy priorities that are statistically similar to those of the voting bloc.

7. Query the IVCS Policy Priorities Database for IVCS members whose agendas are statistically dissimilar but comprise enough shared policy priorities to motivate the individuals to join the voting bloc in exchange for the addition or deletion of objectionable options.

8. Join forces with existing political parties, or start new parties. Voting blocs seeking to expand their membership can contact existing local political parties to see whether they are interested in forming a coalition. Since the Democratic and Republican parties have been losing supporters in recent years, on the whole, they may welcome the opportunity to reinvigorate their electoral base.

To put the negotiations on a concrete plane, the IVCS voting bloc can invite party officials and interested party members to set their policy agendas using the IVCS Policy Options Database. Officials and party members can then submit their priorities to the IVCS Policy Priorities Database for tallying under the party’s name. The members of the voting bloc and the party can respectively compare their agendas to see whether there are a sufficient number of shared priorities to form the basis of a coalition. If so, they can proceed to a vote using the IVCS Voting Utility so their members can vote on which priorities their members wish to place in a common agenda and what slate of candidates they wish to run.

If a consensus emerges, according to whatever procedures and rules they decide to adopt, their coalition can pool their resources to mobilize their members to go to the polls to vote for the slate of candidates they jointly agree to endorse.
Strategically and tactically, IVCS-enabled voting blocs may decide that they will be more effective in getting their candidates elected by working within existing political parties, and eventually getting control of them, than to divert their resources to starting new parties, state by state. The new party route will leave the Democratic and Republican parties intact, and permit them to continue to use their unfair advantages in gerrymandered districts and special interest fund-raising to run and elect party-backed candidates to office.

This strategy of working within existing parties prevents the fragmentation into losing splinter groups of the majority of voters who want to see most Democratic and Republican candidates replaced. However, IVCS consensus-building tools enable broad-cross sections of voters to build voting blocs and coalitions that can win elections, whether they work inside or outside an established party.

The splintering of the majority of U.S. Voters, who want to oust the nation’s Congressional lawmakers, into a whole raft of small political parties is not a formula for success in running winning candidates against the candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, particularly at the presidential level. In the long run, agile and malleable IVCS voting blocs will become more important than political parties. We believe that they, not political parties, will become the driving force in elections and legislation, especially since these blocs can easily gain organizational control of established parties once they start winning elections on party lines and register enough bloc members in the party to elect them to a majority of party positions.

The fact of the matter is that IVCS-enabled voting blocs can perform all the functions of a political party without actually having to form a party, especially since they can run their candidates on existing party lines on the ballot by collecting the number of signatures required by the state to get them on the party’s lines. Moreover, IVCS blocs have unique mechanisms that parties do not have for building ever larger trans-partisan electoral bases, by merging with other voting blocs and forming electoral coalitions with voters across the political spectrum.

By running their candidates on existing party lines and building winning electoral coalitions that have the voting strength needed to beat party candidates in primaries, they can avoid the time consuming efforts involved in collecting the signatures needed to create new political parties from scratch. Moreover, once they start electing their candidates to Congress carrying the banner of the two major parties, they will have access to the pivotal leadership and committee positions that are traditionally divided up between the major parties, positions that have the authority to decide which policies will and will not move through the legislative process and be enacted into law.

Representatives who owe their election to IVCS-enabled voting blocs, and truly represent the best interests of the American people, will be free to revoke anti-majoritarian rules and practices like the Senate’s filibuster and secret holds, which have permitted a minority of elected representatives representing a minority of the American people to decide which bills will and will not be enacted into law.

Working within existing parties at the outset does not prevent the eventual establishment of one or more IVCS-enabled third parties in all 50 states, similar to what Ross Perot attempted to do back in the 90′s. IVCS-enabled voting blocs will have members in all 50 states who can easily use IVCS tools and services to bring together around common agendas decisive numbers of large cross-sections of voters under a minimal number of party umbrellas.

IVCS voting blocs will be well-equipped to proceed on this front, since they will not only have enough members to gather the number of signatures required by the state to establish a political party, but they will also be familiar with the legal ropes, having worked with state election authorities within state legal guidelines for running candidates on the ballots of existing parties.
These blocs can use IVCS agenda-setting and consensus-building mechanisms to enable their members to determine the parties’ policy agendas. Since the members of the party can update their agenda at any time by using the IVCS Voting Utility, the party will not be plagued by internecine conflicts over its platform since they can resolve divergent views by holding on-line votes to determine the preferences of the majority.

Moreover, they can use the platform to screen prospective candidates by comparing the party’s platform with the candidates’ platforms. By using IVCS agenda-setting and consensus-building mechanisms, and analyzing past election results and current polls, they can also determine how they might wish to customize their agendas to enhance the election prospects of their candidates in particular states and counties.

Unlike the present situation where candidates of both major parties espouse policy options that fall well outside the confines of the preferences of rank-and-file party members, IVCS-enabled third parties and their state-based supporters can prevent candidates from running on their lines, in the event that they espouse policies that are clearly inimical to those of the party.

The important point to keep in mind is that the goal of the IVCS application is to enable voters to fundamentally alter the entire political system so that they run the government, not political parties, compromised politicians, special interests that fund their campaigns, or lobbyists whom special interests fund to sit at the table with lawmakers and dictate the legislation they pass.

Whether IVCS-enabled voting blocs opt to get control of the Democratic and Republican parties or create new parties is merely a means to this end. In either case, IVCS-enabled voting blocs will be more powerful than parties, because they will dominate the political landscape from coast to coast by engaging the newly empowered U.S. electorate in setting its agenda and deciding who will be elected to enact it into law.

Moreover, it will be the members of IVCS-enabled voting blocs who will shape public opinion, not political parties or politicians. Since voters will be running the government and sharing their political views over the Internet at the speed of light, their influence will dwarf that of the political pundits, political parties, politicians and their special interest campaign contributors who have limited the parameters of public debate for decades in order to promote and protect their private interests.

IVCS-enabled voting blocs, due to their size, ubiquity and capacity to continuously build consensus among voters across the political spectrum, will also dwarf their influence in deciding which candidates run in primary and general elections and win. This is because IVCS-enabled voting blocs will possess a nimbleness, flexibility and fluidity that enables them to continuously reshape and resize themselves in response to voters’ changing policy priorities so that they can create whatever electoral bases they need to run and elect bloc candidates to office at any level of government and in whatever states they choose.

IVCS-enabled voting blocs of any size can join forces and recombine into larger blocs within states and, eventually, across any and all 50 states, virtually overnight. All they have to do to launch these expanding blocs is to take advantage of the Policy Options Database, the Policy Priorities Database and the Voting Utility to determine what policy priorities are preferred by how many voters. At every turn, they will be able to build consensus among ever larger numbers of voters and gauge whether they have an appropriate mix of policy priorities to obtain the voting strength they need to elect their candidates in upcoming elections. Any shortfalls can be overcome by forming electoral coalitions with other voting blocs, voter mobilization groups, unions and political parties around shared policy agendas.

What matters most is that it will be U.S. voters at the grassroots who possess the exclusive power to run elections and decide who will represent them in government, and what policies their representatives will be instructed to enact in their name.

Conclusion

The Interactive Voter Choice System is a web application designed to support the creation of self-organizing voting blocs and popular political coalitions that become the driving force of U.S. electoral and legislative processes. We see people using the IVCS website to formulate policy agendas comprised of prioritized policy options and then forming cohesive voting blocs around these agendas. IVCS will create the potential for so many policy agendas and voting blocs to form that it is virtually certain that new and powerful blocs and even political parties will emerge to reshape the political landscape. They will grow rapidly and begin to acquire local, state and national influence once they figure out how to develop the right mix of policy agenda, collaborative modes of interaction, leadership, marketing savvy, and, no doubt, luck.

The blocs will at first have only a virtual identity, but the social ties formed will be real. When bloc members start to transform their blocs and electoral coalitions into competing forces with which the two major parties must contend because the majority of angry voters will be driving them, the transition will be made from virtual to political reality. IVCS tools and services will support agenda formation in ways never imagined by legacy parties. The collaborative tools will be better than the meager fare offered by legacy parties. State-of-the-art content management tools will enable voters to get into the nitty-gritty of policy analysis, formulation and advocacy to a degree that political parties never intended, or wanted to afford their members. IVCS social networking tools will enable individual voting bloc members to grow their blocs by leaps and bounds, virtually effortlessly, as infuriated voters realize that they no longer have to tolerate their political impotence at the hands of political parties that have betrayed their trust.

The IVCS application will support an unprecedented degree of openness, transparency, and political inclusiveness within IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions. Because of these characteristics, they will more effectively solve disagreements and conflicts, and adapt with far greater agility to the non-stop political crises overtaking America.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the application will work as we’ve envisioned it. But the likelihood that new national blocs, popular coalitions and even political parties transcending state and local boundaries will form and maintain themselves is great, because of the richness of the application, the potential for many, many groups to form and fail, while giving up their members to those that survive, and also because of the yearning in America for change. Most Americans want to do something about the mess that we’re in. They’ll respond to an application like IVCS that enables them to prevent the looming collapse of a democracy that once provided inspiration to democracies everywhere.

(Cross-posted at Re-inventing Democracy, All Life Is Problem Solving, and Fiscal Sustainability).