When I would sit through classes on theory, there were some discussions that I thought were entire restricted to the classroom, that would never become a part of the national debate on politics. One of them was the discussion about the main two types of a democratic system.
In a direct democracy the people make decisions by collectively voting on proposals, as a opposed to a representative democracy where the people elected representatives to make decision for their constituents. While our politicians do not explicitly debate it in this manner, we have one party that consistently wants to put every proposal possible on the ballot and another that is content with voting being restricted to the election of representatives.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate — almost along partisan lines — defeated President Obama’s Jobs Bill, a bill that was as close to a bipartisan piece of legislation that we’ve seen in our lifetime. The jobs bill sheds light on why the two parties take the stances they do on referendums.
A recent poll showed overwhelming support of the bill when told of the details, 63% to 32%. When the same poll simply asks for an opinion on the bill showed a lack of understanding, with 30% in support, 22% opposed, and 44% with no opinion.
This is a clear example of how important a representative democracy is when so many people have no idea what the details are of specific legislation. It is even more important in a representative democracy for representatives to represent the clear will of the people. Whether it was the 60% of the population that supports a mix of cuts and new revenue for a sound budget proposal or the 60% that support the jobs bill.
How can the opposition of a bill barely go up, while almost 4 out of ever 5 undecided respondents end up supporting the legislation. It means that the Party of No has no reverence to the reality of legislation or its support and they want to capitalize on the ignorance of an electorate that has to be absorbed in dealing with their own problems to fully understand complicated political issues.
It is much easier, and equally as democratic, to elect an individual to represent our interests; which then allows us to influence those representatives on issues that we care about and have an interest. It also allows us to not be forced into an issue that we do have an interest or a need to influence, and rely on a representative to still represent our general ideology.
Testing has showed that when people do not understand something, and forced to take an up-or-down vote, they will likely vote no. The GOP wants to take advantage of this and put issues that the ballot that would otherwise get adopted if our representatives either voting in the interest and support of their constituency; or if the people who were voting directly on an issue fully understand what they were voting on.
Instead, we are stuck inheriting the worst of both systems.