Photo Credit: Inauguration Day: “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos!” (Clip)
According to 58% of voters, America’s democratic process “needs major reforms or a complete overhaul.” Unfortunately, many procedural pieces were written in 1787, others have been baked into laws and rules in the centuries since, and our two party tradition traps tens of millions of voters in the lesser-of-two-evils game. If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for some way to restore functionality to our political system. The American Union can deliver major reforms by overlaying a new structure over the old one, without changing any laws or the Constitution.
Here’s the weird trick; acknowledge that because we have a two party system, a 3.5% bloc of voters can control the national balance of power based on a principled metric that is unrelated to party affiliation.
The first part takes logic: political scientists will recognize this as Duverger’s law. Because we elect Congress in single member districts by plurality vote, things coalesce around two parties — the party in power, and a party seeking power. Until the Constitution or federal election laws change, wishful thinking isn’t going to change the math.
The second part, “a 3.5% bloc of voters” takes math. Although the majority of elections for Congress are not competitive, many of them are. An analysis of the 2020 election results found that as many as eight Senate seats and 59 House seats could have been flipped by a national 3.5% bloc. Further, studies have found that 3.5% of the population is the threshold “to ensure serious political change.”
The third part, the principled metric, takes hard work: it must be a ethically consistent set of demands that those voters can agree on. Even more, these can not be nebulous soundbites, but a very specific legislative proposal to be offered to Congress.
The last part takes courage: not playing the lesser-of-two-evils game accepts that the worse of two evils might get elected. The two party system runs on polarization; purposely keeping Americans divided as to better rule over us. Only after rejecting the old political paradigm will we find the freedom to embrace a better one.
Once you’ve got a group of courageous people who trust the math, some of whom are willing to do hard work, congratulations! Being the deciders of dozens of elections, and therefore the balance of power in Washington, creates leverage over Congress, the legislative branch of the United States. (Corporations use a similar leverage-seeking strategy when they donate to both candidates in an election.) With great power comes great responsibility; what sort of principled policy will the deciders champion?
The American Union has crowdsourced a legislative package with the primary purpose of ending poverty, ending mass incarceration, and ending the endless wars. These goals spring from the preamble to the Constitution, and form the basis for the more than 200 pages of legislation, the Blueprint for a Better America, which has been offered to Congressional candidates from both parties. Before endorsements in the 470 federal races are awarded, however, candidates have the opportunity to compete for them.
Since 1876, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November has been Election Day. To superimpose a new political structure over the existing one requires a corresponding framework; a crowdsourced election that decides the outcome of the official one. In America’s early days, such an event might have taken place in the Town Common; in 2022, social media is the public square, and the election will take place via Twitter on Saturday, October 15.
After weeks of public scrutiny of the Blueprint for a Better America, Americans willing to demand its immediate passage as the basis for a better social contract will have the opportunity to formally opt-in to this parallel electoral architecture, pledging their ballots to the bloc. Candidates for Congress who would like the American Union endorsement (and the accompanying votes) can compete for it by adopting our demands and opting in on October 15. Those who refuse will be recorded in favor of keeping poverty, mass incarceration, and the endless wars.
To emphasize the moral nature of the legislative goals, which address Martin Luther King Jr.’s triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism, this election coincides with a national day of fasting – a fast for peace. Citizens can demonstrate their commitment to putting America’s common interest before their own by forgoing food and using the hashtag #fastforpeace on Twitter. (I warned you a weird trick was involved in fixing America’s democracy. Fasting and compromise are two sides of the same coin — willingly giving something up.) Those unable or unwilling to only drink water for 24 hours may signify their agreement with the hashtag #VoteAU.
This roll call vote for the 1,000 members of Congress and their major party opponents will reveal who is willing to take up the demand of the American Union for the immediate, as-is passage of the Blueprint for a Better America. Those candidates competing for the endorsement can then be grouped not by party affiliation, but by another natural classification: incumbents and challengers.
Incumbents of both parties are the ones who have the power to make this happen quickly. In December 2020, lawmakers passed a much larger 5,593-page spending bill in a matter of hours. With the Blueprint pre-written, it can be done in ten days if we use our power as voters and citizens to create the political will. Congress doing so earns them backing of the American Union, and secures their place in the history books as the most transformational Congress in generations. Failure to act entitles their challenger, who has pledged to support its immediate passage, to the endorsement.
For decades, the political pendulum has swung back and forth between Republicans and Democrats, as frustrated voters eject the party in power and give the party seeking power a chance. The American Union political structure provides a constructive alternative; by establishing conditions for candidates of both parties to succeed (as well as the American people), it upgrades adversarial democracy with collaborative democracy.
However, many entrenched interests are profiting from the current dysfunction, so an American Union of voters must remain committed to that weird trick, that because we have a two party system, a 3.5% bloc of voters can control the national balance of power based on a principled metric that is unrelated to party affiliation. The candidates may rebuff the offer of collaborative democracy because they think voters are bluffing when they reject adversarial democracy, expecting that we’d relapse to the politics of division.
The math is unassailable; although 3.5% is an ideal (and realistic) number, smaller percentages in the right places are all that’s actually needed to determine the outcome in dozens of districts. A 1% bloc of voters could have reversed the outcome of the last two presidential elections and the Georgia Senate runoffs. By focusing on 10 states with Senate races on the ballot, the American Union can control the outcome of as many as a half dozen Senate seats and more than dozen House seats; enough to determine the majority party in each chamber after the midterms.
If, however, the political parties call our bluff, the American Union has a principled metric to fall back on; refusing to play the lesser-of-two-evils game. A union’s power comes from being willing to go on strike, to walk out, to disrupt business as usual. To control the balance of power without taking sides means endorsing candidates by random events. Since the only metric parties have is winning, this would send a clear message for candidates in the 2024 election; be willing to lose if you turn down our offer, because we have a two party system, so a 3.5% bloc of voters can control the national balance of power based on a principled metric that is unrelated to party affiliation.
Once the American Union is established as a bargaining unit for the citizenry, the next level of collaborative democracy will be unlocked; a people’s congress, made up of thousands of American Union organizers. With multiple members from each existing Congressional district collaborating across the internet, a new legislative package can be produced for each election year. Citizens will have better representation, and a people’s congress can tackle even more issues that Washington is failing to address, such as education, immigration and election reform. With the results backed by the American Union of voters, we can crowdsource functional government.
On October 15, America will have the opportunity to decide what’s best for our nation – restoring our place of prestige in the industrialized world by ending poverty, mass incarceration, and the endless wars, or risking a deeply polarizing election where violence is a very real possibility. The American Union takes advantage of a weird trick and creates an opportunity for calmer heads to prevail in 2022 and beyond.
America can upgrade our social contract when “We the people of the United States” form a more perfect union.