Maine Voices: We won’t fix our problems if we can’t fix democracy

Gun Rights

Predictably, the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the gun carnage in our schools, the street shootings, and suicides by firearms bring us the cacophony of well-intentioned editorial writers, reporters, academics, political activists and politicians who blame the judges, the NRA, social media, the paucity of mental health, and the court itself.

Then comes the legislation, as we have already seen with guns and soon with abortion, that is just enough of a win, and just enough of a loss, to fund-raise another billion in lobby money across the ideological spectrum to sustain the gridlock in Washington. As we organization theorists have researched, the inability to reduce gun violence and have a court that’s only response is easing restrictions is a symptom of our aging democracy that has devolved into minority rule since the 1980s.  We might have saved several thousand lives and solved many of our other nation’s problems by now had we taken a structural approach then, and certainly in 1999, the year of the Columbine High School massacre.

One bright spot is that Maine is leading the way. Our approach was best articulated by President Biden’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg when he said, “We’ve got to fix our democracy before it’s too late. Get that right [and] climate, immigration, taxes, and every other issue gets better.” It’s the only way to preserve the integrity of the court, for gun control, global warming mitigation, health care reform, debt and deficits control, big money out of our politics, social security stabilization, and tax reform because it gets our democracy back to majority rule.

Where to begin? Ranked Choice Voting! Democrats in Maine did it, Republicans did it in Alaska, and Republicans did it in Utah. We must have it nationally so that reform-minded politicians have a chance to get elected with a majority of votes. Then, we must get the House of Representatives expanded with more districts, proportional districts, and no gerrymandering so that we the majority — “we the people” – get represented.

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How?, Publicly, explicitly, and repeatedly link your favorite issue and organization to fixing the democracy first by stating that these democratic reforms are the only way to advance your cause!  Do this by listening to those nonpartisan folks who have done the work and the science. Those folks are, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences with their free cross-partisan report titled, “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing democracy for the 21st Century.” The Academy is one of the oldest and most prestigious academic organizations in the United States. They list six reform “Strategies” and the tactics to achieve them.  These will get us to effective gun control and many, if not most, other reforms including our courts.

We know that the Australian, New Zealand, and European approaches on guns will work and we know that our Supreme Court nominees should be selected by more than just listening to the Federalist Society.

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However, politicians in the United States are hamstrung by plurality instead of majority voting systems and big lobby money. Both feed off of each other in preventing majority rule. And, we must understand that many of the organizations we hold dear are part of the problem.

They lobby for our favorite issue — thus reinforcing the root cause of the problem they are trying to solve.  We must rise above them all and listen to the Academy and unite in a coalition of activist organizations using the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fair Vote, and League of Women Voters as organizing tools.

All three are solely focused on the nonpartisan, objective, and evidence-based fixes that build a better democracy.  We must pressure our favorite lobby organizations, be they freedom to choose, climate action, animal rights, gun rights, health care, or tax reform to “Fix the democracy first.”, as Buttigieg urges us to do. We now know how to do it.

— Special to the Press Herald


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