How Do We Fix Our Democracy? Add More Democracy! [Opinion]

Election reforms, like a presidential recall or proportional representation, may improve the citizenry's confidence in Washington lawmakers.

Two hands are raised in a non-descript room of lawmakers.
Mircea Moira / Shutterstock

Election reforms, like a presidential recall or proportional representation, may improve the citizenry's confidence in Washington lawmakers.

Confidence in our elected officials’ abilities to lead is very low. According to previous reporting from the Inquisitr, a survey conducted in 2017 found that only 18 percent of Americans thought that politicians in Washington D.C. would “do the right thing always or most of the time.”

Our government is in desperate need of improvement. But how do we achieve this end? For starters, we need better politicians. Yet, that won’t fix everything — some of the issues are structural, and only reforms in our government itself can improve Americans’ collective confidence.

What kind of reforms can do this? Abolishing the Electoral College and implementing instant runoff elections are good starting points. Two other ideas, however, need consideration.

A Presidential Recall Process

President Donald Trump’s time in office has not been viewed as positive by a majority of Americans since he was inaugurated. According to Real Clear Politics, he has not had a net-positive approval rating since assuming the presidency.

A president’s tenure in office, of course, should not be shortened on the basis of a select number of polls. But maybe there should be a mechanism in place for the people — or the states — to remove a commander-in-chief from power.

Two means of doing so already exist: impeachment, which requires actions from both houses of Congress to implement, and the 25th Amendment, which requires action from the president’s own staff to remove him from power — in addition to approval from Congress, should the president object. Under both of these scenarios, partisan politicians who favor the president can stand in the way of a chief executive whom the people are no longer in favor of. A third option must be considered, and it should come in the form of a presidential recall election.

It could work in any number of ways, but one possible method would be requiring two-thirds of all state legislatures to pass resolutions demanding an election take place — at any point during a president’s tenure. If that threshold is met, a simple ballot within six months’ time could give voters the option to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the president should continue serving.

If a majority of voters say “no,” then the vice president would become president. In the interim, a special election could be considered within another set number of months’ time to put in a permanent replacement — at least until the presidential term would have been set to expire.

Proportional representation in the House

Gerrymandering and other mechanisms in our representative democracy make things very difficult for our legislative branch to be representative of the people in the United States. Nearly 20 percent of the American population considers themselves libertarian, according to the Cato Institute, and polling from Gallup shows that 35 percent of Americans have a positive view of socialism. Yet those numbers, for either ideologies, are not well-represented in the House of Representatives.

If a Libertarian Party or Socialist Party candidate runs for office, they will have very little chance of actually winning, and will be called, by some, a “spoiler” candidate in that election — diverting valuable votes from Republican or Democratic candidate options. But what if we afforded those parties, and others, another means of being represented in Congress?

Introducing a nationwide proportional representation model for electing lawmakers into the House of Representatives may be a way to do that. The entire chamber shouldn’t be selected in this manner — geographic representation should be preserved in the chamber. But reducing the number of geographic districts nationwide by 50 seats, and adding additional parties to ballots across the nation, could add more representation in the House — if those parties are then allowed to put their members into those seats, based on the percentage of votes that they get.

A proportional representation vote of 30 percent for Democrats, 50 percent for Republicans, and 10 percent for both Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates, for example, would put 15 Democrats, 25 Republicans, 5 Green Party, and 5 Libertarian Party officials into the House.

Lists of which candidates from each party should be provided by those organizations beforehand, to ensure voters know who they intend to put in those seats — should their respective parties win them. But this method of choosing representatives ensures that supporters of third party organizations are also represented in what’s supposed to be the “people’s house.”

Democracy in the United States is facing some pretty significant challenges as of late. A vigorous defense of the institutions being belittled and dismayed against by our current commander-in-chief is necessary. But so, too, might be the need for new institutional changes that make democracy stronger.

We live in a society where the most desired pick for president isn’t always the winner, and where the most desired pick to lead Congress isn’t always given the opportunity to lead after elections. There are ways to address this within the current model of our Constitutional government, but reforms like those cited above may need to be considered and implemented in order to make things better down the road.