One of the great things about The DSUp Project, which I would like to impress on those giving it its day in court, is that it is The Cause to Jumpstart All Causes.
Think about it this way. Imagine a major change to the law, at the federal level, that is associated with a majority sentiment of voters, right now, in America. There are more than a few of those, haunting the zeitgeist.
Really, you’ll have to imagine one. I’m not going to give an example. Any example I offer will make it seem like the Project is partisan, in some way, on that issue. For some issues, even bringing them up is partisan. So you’ll really need to settle on something in your own head to proceed. Focus—there is an issue. It has a legislative aspect. A majority of Americans approve of the legislation. It’s still not getting done.
Can you see it?
So, here’s the thing: after the Direct Revolution, that cause will no longer be stalled. That legislation, which the majority of voters actually wants, will be passed and will become law. And don’t forget, also, that legislation, which your cause wants to remove and which a majority of voters would also like to see go bye-bye—well, if you had DDL’s all across America right now, it wouldn’t even be an issue. The law would be repealed, rescinded, revoked, gone!
Now, that seems like a beautiful thing, and it is…but it does come at a price. If you get to have your way on something that you believe in along with the majority, it also means that ideas you vehemently abhor have a chance to be codified into law if a majority of American voters give them the thumbs up.
Can you see it? Are you imagining it? Is it scary?
What can I say, that’s they way it’s gotta be. If you really think the majority is going to do something stupid, stop relying on some sneaky tactic to trick them out of it. Get your arguments ready and do battle—rhetorically speaking.
“Direct Legislation is a rising tide that lifts all boats.” Who said that? It must have been someone very wise.
Here’s the thing. You know how sometimes, if you’re using a public bathroom, somebody might have written something on the wall. There might be a message scratched into the paint in somewhat murderous-looking letters. Obscenities, crude poetry, random rants, unflattering caricatures, etc.
For some reason I remember seeing in the bathroom stall of the boy’s room of the middle school I attended, “For a Good Time Call Wanda,” followed by a phone number.
Obviously, I never once wrote down that number and tried to call Wanda. Even if I had done so, I would not have expected Wanda to answer in a sultry voice, saying, “Hey, you must have gotten my message, sailor. Wanna have a good time?”
No, I naturally assumed that it was a bad joke, that there was no one named Wanda, or, indeed, any other person of any description who would be delighted if I called. If it was a working number, then it was the target of a prank, their number maliciously placed so the intended victim might be called at all hours by randy strangers, or really, in this case, it being a middle school bathroom, mischievous sixth-grade boys.
This used to be how we looked at such information in general, wasn’t it? We knew, instinctively, that it was bad information. We knew this because the information had no knowable source–we had no idea who wrote it. It could have been anybody. And some people are crazy. And some people are just, well, not very nice. The information also had a bad context. A bathroom wall is a terrible place to transmit serious or important messages. Because of these, and other factors, the information had a very low probability of being useful or accurate. We knew this, even in middle school.
But then, the internet came along.
Nowadays people see unsourced, anonymous, messages that aren’t transmitted in any credible context and they suddenly launch into dire flights of ideation. Staying with the bathroom wall analogy, they think, “Oh, my God, is that true? Is Wanda soliciting men for sex? It could be Wanda Jankowitz! Why does she need the money? For drugs? Oh, my God, Wanda Jankowitz is turning tricks for crack! And she’s only in sixth grade! What is this world coming to?”
That’s kind of where we are at, people.
Admittedly, this is not a completely fair comparison. A lot of great information is transmitted all day long, zillions of times per second, on social media. And the good information, like the bad, is also anonymous and unsourced. For instance, I often trust the people on line commenting on the recipes I’d like to try out. Technically, I have no good reason to believe these strangers have my best interests at heart. But, I also have long experience with human nature, and I know that there aren’t scads of people that get their kicks out of giving deliberately bad and misleading cooking advice in the comments section of a food blog.
However, when it comes to politics, which is intimately tied with money and power—well, we all have long experience with that, now don’t we? We know that anonymous, unsourced comments, accusations, innuendo, gossip, etc., have a high probability of being politically motivated fabrications, and should not be taken too seriously until independently confirmed.
We know that, right? I mean, no journalist would ever write a newspaper article about what a group of anonymous people are saying on social media. That’s not news. They would no sooner write an article titled, “Wanda: Should we Call Her for a Good Time? We Ask the Experts.” Journalists have integrity, and readers are discerning—they would never put up with that…would they?
Of course they would! Journalists do that all the time! Because, you know…the internet. It’s like they are looking at one, long, continuous bathroom wall and going, “Say, I notice a lot of occurrences of this name ‘Wanda,’ often associated with some kind of phone number and a sexually suggestive offer. Could there be something to it?”
[Sound of a long, exasperated sigh.]
At this point you may be wondering what all this has to do with Direct Legislation and The Democracy Straight-Up Project.
Well, the very good news is that once you form a Direct Legislature in your district, and provided you are a member of it, you can ignore social media for the rest of your life. You can do this and still get all the information and guidance you want when it comes to the issues of the day, and the legislation that seeks to address them. And it will be much higher-quality information, it will summarized for your convenience, and it will be tailored to your demands.
Oh, yeah, people, that is what we are offering up here. That one reason alone would be enough to make the Direct Revolution a wondrous thing. But, of course, it is only one of many wondrous things.
To be clear, you should engage in social media to your heart’s content. It’s not like we could stop you! But you know what it is like when you hear something that someone said somewhere on line. Is it true? How can you trust the bathroom wall? Now, some people will do a deep dive and research the hell out of things on their own. Good for them, but as a general solution to the problem of confirming the veracity of information online–it stinks. Most people don’t have the time, or the inclination.
And if that is you, then you are already in a position where you have to try to figure out who to believe. You might even have someone you turn to and ask, “Is this legit?” They are probably one of those people I just mentioned, who likes to research the hell out of things. What The Democracy Straight-Up Project does when it helps you set up a District Direct Legislature is it makes sure you are hooked up to someone like that. You join something called a Pod, which is a small group of voters that is like a mini Voter Caucus. If you are curious about that, here’s a link:
A Pod by Any Other Name
When you join a Pod, you elect a First Delegate to represent you and your Pod mates. Your F-Del, as we like to call them, is one of those people we mentioned—an I-Do-My-Own Researcher—and, what they can’t do on their own, they can get help with, via the system of putting forward delegates that we call ‘Direct Representation.’ Just as you have delegate that your can literally order around, your F-Del has a delegate that they can literally order around, and get you the answers you asked for.
And remember that journalist we talked about in a previous paragraph? The one who was reporting on unsourced, anonymous information, and making a story out of the fact that people were repeating that information in an equally unsourced and anonymous way? Well, now that reporter will have something much better to report on. They can talk about what Americans are really thinking when they are not hiding behind avatars and sock puppets.
So, you don’t have to read the bathroom wall anymore! You can go about your business, whistling a happy tune–your business being, in this case, living your life, not the other business done in, you know…bathrooms. But, what the hell, whistle a happy tune while you are doing that too!
One of the practical considerations we have employed in designing the Democracy Straight-Up Project is the need to entirely eliminate campaigning from politics.
I know, right? It’s one of the fundamentals of our democracy, ain’t it? Campaigning is at the very heart of the American experiment. It is emblematic of some of our most-cherished freedoms—Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly, to be specific.
Okay, I hear your cries of distress at the thought of eliminating all political campaigns but bear with me. Doesn’t campaigning have a dark side? A really, really dark side? I mean, is it something we all universally love? Or is it more like a necessary evil that we have learned to thinly tolerate?
Let’s jot down a quick list. What are the dynamics that go into campaigning?
Item 1: Back in the day, the founders might have imagined a gentleman farmer ‘tossing his hat in the ring’ and having just as much of a chance as anyone else of representing the other citizens of his district (or, at least, the other gentleman farmers of his district). But we all know that ship has sailed. If that ship ever even existed. Long before you or I ever hear the name of a candidate, they have been vetted and groomed by political parties and big-money donors. Which makes sense because…
Item 2: It costs a lot of money to run for congress—you need to bank at least a million dollars. And while that’s not a lot of money in the scheme of things, it’s still a lot of money for a homemaker from Poughkeepsie (or some other regular person). It’s a very expensive hat to be tossing around. Especially when the odds, on average, are greater than fifty-percent that you’ll lose.
So, there is the need to raise funds to run, which has lead to endless headaches. There’s a gnawing contradiction that undergirds the whole enterprise. The candidate must pledge to objectively serve the needs of the constituents. And yet, they may be entirely funded by a small subset of those constituents who have special needs and a glaringly obvious pathway to getting those needs met–whether they are good or bad for the rest of the constituency.
Let’s face it, when it comes to the question, “Is my candidate basically a puppet?” we mostly cross our fingers and hope it is not true, or, if it is, not completely true, and maybe sometimes the needs of the not-so-well-monied constituents are being served, well enough? Pretty please?
Item 3: Campaigns are also tied up with political party politics. If you choose to run for office, and your politics don’t fit neatly into one camp or the other (which is true for most Americans) then you either need to conform your views to the party in order to tap into the powerful campaign machinery at their disposal, or run as an independent, and take your chances.
Item 4: Then there are the dynamics inherent in getting all those ill-informed, distracted, apathetic voters to rally around you. Just kidding (not kidding). Now, it would be great if a candidate, expressing themselves frankly and making reasoned arguments, attracted the sober consideration of all the denizens of a district, who then formulated an assessment as to whether or not to embrace said candidate.
But here on planet earth, we are stuck with homo sapiens, and despite how we named ourselves, we are not particularly ‘wise’ in that particular way.
It’s no one’s fault. The dynamics at play during a campaign make honesty, from the candidate, and sober assessment, from the base, physically and psychologically impossible. To be clear, human beings are definitely capable of using their faculties to make rational decisions. But with a candidate constantly shaping and adjusting their message to anticipate what a certain group of voters may or may not think, and with voters treating the whole spectacle of politics as a kind of real-life version of World of Warcraft, at no moment in time does anyone have the luxury of being perfectly reasonable.
What to do, what to do?
If it were possible to get rid of campaigning altogether, that would be highly desirable. Not so much for the people who have the power to control who does and doesn’t run for office. Such people might be unenthusiastic about the Death of Campaigning. But for the rest of us, it would be pretty great. Of course, we are not talking about banning campaigns. We still have our freedoms which must be preserved. It would have to be like this: you could campaign if you wanted to, but it wouldn’t do you any good, and might even hurt your chances of getting elected, if you engaged in that sort of unseemly behavior.
Ah, me. If only there were some way to do that, to really put an end to this very unsavory, morally compromising way of selecting candidates for office. Sigh.
But there is no hope. Nope. No hope whatsoever. There has never been a solution to the dark necessity of political campaigning, and there never will be.
(Note to Self: Should I put a winky-face after that? Nah, they’ll get it.)
Here it is. I’m putting it out there in the world.
The trick at this point is going to be to get other people on board. Of course, I’m still developing the idea, I’m still working on a body of explanatory literature that will eventually be enough to fill a book, and there are still a lot of specifics that need to be filled in. But the rough outline of what I mean by Democracy Straight-Up is pretty much in place. At some point, you just gotta jump in!
This project started to take shape for me 30 years ago when I was in grad school. I was studying sociology.
I had a great English teacher when I was an undergrad–I took three courses he taught, so I tapped him for a recommendation when I applied to grad schools. He obliged, but he wrote me a personal note, one line of which I will never forget: “Your pursuit of a graduate degree is laudable, but I can’t agree with your choice of sociology, which I see as a haven for mediocrities and unclear thinking.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Notwithstanding that, I entered sociology with good intentions: I felt like there was clearly something wrong with society, and I wanted to help fix it. It seemed that, with all our prosperity, and even with our long experience living in a democracy, we Americans were still making each other miserable.
My focus on Direct Legislation grew out of my frustration with all of the social theory I was ingesting. I became suspicious of any effort to improve our democracy through ideological efforts. That’s a nice way to put it. Our go-to technique for improving democracy in America is to fashion a great, big, really judgmental, ideological hammer and start pounding on people’s thick skulls with it. Not that I don’t have an ideology. I’m a human being and, like anyone else. I have my political opinions. But after a while, that hammer gets so heavy. So very, very heavy.
So, I asked myself, what if it were possible to improve democracy in America–in a way that would make like better for everyone–without changing anyone’s political beliefs? How would one go about achieving that?
It struck me that there was a huge disconnect between the ‘will of the people,’ on the one hand and our system of representation and legislation on the other. So, I started casting about for solutions. Often, the problem of representation is addressed by shouting, “Kick the bums out!” This places the blame on the legislators themselves. But this always struck me as a poor solution. There is a reason why legislators tend to be the way they are; it doesn’t really have much to do with their personal character. Even people with good intentions have a hard time getting things done. And, it is worth mentioning that, as much as people say they want to replace the congress with a better crop of people, they never do, do they?
But if the legislators aren’t to blame, then are the voters to blame? After all, they keep voting for the crooks! Well, is that’s your diagnosis, what would be your next steps? You’d need to run around motivating and educating people so that they make better decisions. Get involved in the civic life of their community. And…zzzzz….oh, sorry, just fell asleep for a second there.
Of course, many people do that kind of work. It’s unclear how effective it is. But more to the point, what if ‘blaming the people,’ from the get-go, is a wrong-headed solution to the problem? Then we are left at a bit of an impasse. It’s not the politicians. It’s not the voters. Then what could possibly becausing the problem?
The problem is not the participants, but the structure of the system. Specifically the disconnect between any given legislative representative and the people they represent. And the solution to that is actually fairly straightforward. Simply to build a connection. A direct connection. Not encouragement, not education, not taking measures to ensure a representative made a real effort to stay in touch with the voters, not employing opinion polls, or even, God forbid, referendum. Just a direct link, as direct as possible–cut out all the messiness and uncertainty in the middle.
That’s why I started thinking about a system of Connected Representation. And that is what the Democracy Straight Up Project is putting in place. It eliminates the need for campaigning, and therefor fundraising (and to some extent, even political parties) and just puts the best candidate in your district’s seat in the House. Obviously there is a lot more to it than just that. People will have a lot of questions–that’s what The Project is for. But for now, just imagine the House Rep for your district is ‘put forward’ by the voters of the district, in truly meritocratic process, without anyone having to make speeches or raise a dime. Many evils inherent in the process of campaigning would be wiped out in one fell swoop.
Now, once you dig into the specifics of Connected Representation, you may realize that it makes something else very possible–inevitable really. Namely, direct legislation.
Not a system of referendums. Just a system where every voter can vote directly–yea, nay, etc.–on every piece of legislation that comes up for a vote before the US House of Representatives. Now, many people–including and especially the founders of American democracy–have had qualms (many, many qualms) about such a system. Believe me, when I started thinking about it, I had those qualms. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that the system of Connected Representation alleviated most of them. Also, I discovered that all of us have had, for a long time, the wrong idea when it came to this kind of ‘direct democracy.’ There’s a reason why we don’t see it as a solution–it has been chased out of our conscience minds by misconceptions and baseless fears. And, of course, the Democracy Straight Up Project will have its work cut out for it when it comes to addressing those misconceptions and those fears. But it’s totally doable.
And there we have it. Take a system of Connected Representation (starting at the national level), let it do what it does naturally, which is allow for Direct Legislation, and that gives you what I am calling.Democracy Straight-Up: Direct Legislation combined with Direct Representation. Hit the Explore button up above, and start learning more, if you like. Or not. It’s a free country.