(January 30th, 2013)
I've been watching some recent episodes of TYT (The Young Turks) on YouTube. I'm fascinated by the idea of free, independant, online news. Not the "Oh, look how cool we are here at (insert the name of a major news network)! We put some videos online, festooned with tons of ads. Aren't we hip and cool, daddy-o?", but real online news, produced, directed, and written by people who are not owned by Big Money. Do they have some bias? Sure, who doesn't? Do they give actual facts instead of a flood of nonsence (like the Cable/Network News programs)? Yes, and a lot of it. (I may not always agree, but they give enough facts from both sides that I don't feel like they're cramming their opinions down my throat like *cough* Fox *cough*).
My interest in politics is primaily geared toward finding out where it went so horribly wrong and, hopefully, using this to find a solution. First off, I want to say that I don't think armed rebellion is the best option because it would lead to open anarachy and, in the ensuing violence, many innocent people would likely be hurt or left in a terrible state. It seems to me that there has to be a way to use the system to reform or repair the system, and that's what I want to explore (at least in the hypothetical today). So, here it is, my idea of the perfect US Political Party, which I shall dub the iParty (i.e. the Internet Party).
First of all, let me describe how it would work. There would be an online forum setup for the party, and every congressional bill, everything both national and state Congress/Legislature (respectively) vote on, would be posted in it's own forum post (tagged with relevant tags like Immigration or Budget so users could easily sort for the issues they care most about). Supporters would then post a short summary of why they feel the bill should be supported. Opponents would also be able to post a short summary of why they oppose it. Users (i.e. "members" of the party, though they would be free to be members of other parties, too) would be signed up (with both their physical and mailing address) and then be able to comment and vote on these issues (votes they could change at any time leading up to the 'close' of the issue topic at midnight the night before the bill was to be voted on, and, if debate continued after the vote, then the post would be unlocked for further comments that evening). The votes would be tallied according to "Representative" district (as well as tallied for America as a whole, though this wouldn't effect the politician's scorecard), and the Representatives would be rated based on how well their voting pattern agreed with the majority of the people they supposedly represented. (I suspect this percentage would be pitifully low for current politicians because there is little incentive for them to vote with the people as votes are cheap.)
When election time came around, those who wished to be iParty candidates would have to agree to a firm set of rules. First, they promise to vote 100% of the time the way the majority of users on the forum in their district (not nationally) vote, reguardless of their personal opinions or the coersion of others. Second, they promise not to take any form of campaign contribution or to waste time with Corperate fundraising while in office. iParty would provide their ballot fees (from donations from it's members) and host and promote their online meetings and debates with other potential candidates (and, as needed, travel fees), and all candidates with sufficient support would recieve the same funding from the party. (Party Primaries would be held using Alternative Vote elections, with the "weakest link" being eliminated in each round until only one candidate remained). Third, they would agree to have their backside sitting in that Congressional seat while Congress is in session (barring emergencies) and to actually read the legislation they are voting on (so they actually know what they're voting on and don't sound like total idiots). If the elected officials did not do this, then they would be replaced in the next election with someone who said they would (until we got candidates who listened to the people).
The party's platform would be very simple. "iParty believes in a US government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people', and that Representatives should represent the majority of the people who elected them, reguardless of economic or social status. Furthermore, iParty believes in presenting the issues in a NPOV (Neutral Point Of View) and empowering it's members with the neccessary tools to create informed opinions and convey these opinions to their elected lawmakers in an efficient and open way. We also hold the elected officials who use our party name to gain office to be strict Representatives of their people and not to engage in political wheeling and dealing." That's it. They would not take a stand on the issues (because it's the job of the people to voice their opinions on the issues to the political party, not the job of a political party to tell the people what to think). The party would not take corperate/business donations (or any donation by an actual person greater than $1,000 per household per month).
The forum would also have certain protections to avoid fraud. IPs would, of course, be tracked. Furthermore, a random sampling of members would be sent verifications letters every month to be certain they live at the address they claim to live at. Moderators would also, randomly, Google Street View the street address of random members to ensure that the address is valid. Lastly, members who live in the same area as someone they suspect to be cheating (because they own like 20 PO Boxes or something like that) could report them, and such members could be temporarily (or possibly, eventually, permanently) banned for misconduct.
I know it's not a perfect solution because, although 95% of American homes have access to the internet and most of the rest have access to a public library with internet, there are still some people remaining who wouldn't have access to the iParty forums. Nevertheless, the number of people without access would be far lower than the number of Americans who don't vote every year (which is around 2/3rds of the US). The point of this idea is to come up with a way to give a voice back to the people, to make our government a Representative Democracy again.