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Representative Democracy: No Exchanges No Returns

Democracy, Use It or Lose It

We at DSOT believe in representative democracy. Not just because it is the system of government, we purportedly​​ follow within the United States, but because the legitimacy and efficacy of such governments rise and fall based on their responsiveness to the governed. This isn't just a theory of best practice idealized in the classroom but without real world consequences when ignored: a recent analysis on politics and governance studied how populations respond to a government sidelining its citizenry on issues of import, and the dangers of ignoring the people’s demands. Specifically, the study looked at France during and after a voting referendum asking if citizens wanted to join the EU and adopt its constitution. Many voters in France, a majority in fact, rejected the country's adoption of this constitution, however, rather than respecting the results of the referendum and listening to the will of the people, the French government largely ignored the populace and proceeded to implement the EU Constitution anyway. In the intervening years since, the researchers found a strong correlation between the strength of a municipality’s rejection to the EU Constitution and reduced democratic participation including lower voter turnout, a higher share of blank votes submitted, and larger gains for anti-democratic parties in subsequent elections. Increased incidents of political protest, and lower productivity in the workplace were also observed. This example demonstrates something we already know at DSOT about the contract between representative governments and their citizens: the legitimacy of the political system rests on successfully representing and reflecting the will of the people. The very act of responding to the majority’s wants both strengthens the political process and increases the government’s ability to govern. The inverse is true when the people are ignored. While this study specifically looked at a French referendum, we can see parallels to this phenomenon across the United States, where on issue after issue, from raising the minimum wage, to gun control, to healthcare reform and beyond, the American people speak, and the government by and large ignores them. Just as in France, the past several decades of dismissing democracy in the US has coincided with a growing distrust in government, inconsistent voter participation, and increased social alienation. Unresponsive governments aren’t entirely to blame here, but the fact remains the lack of government's response is part and parcel of this ongoing process. This study confirms that renewing American democracy and revitalizing our culture and our society so that it lives up to the promise of America is not just a good ethical practice, but it is good power politics. Jump starting the connection between the government and its people increases a political party’s power, the government’s legitimacy at large, and the democratic process in general. Capital, and the donor class do not want this to occur, and they’re strengthened by the disaffection and apathy of voters. Our task is to make sure that the government responds to the will of the people, to stop the degradation of our political process and our drift away from democracy. It will take both political organizing and economic power to bring the ship of government back on course. So, join us each Tuesday in growing solidarity as we build an economic cudgel to bring our government back in line and save our democracy. ​​​​​

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