This election highlighted now more than ever the importance of direct democracy. While many people across the nation voted for their choice of candidate with bated breath, in California there was more than just a battle between the polarized representatives of the Republican and Democrats. If you recall standing in the voter’s booth, you will also remember that more than two-thirds of the sheet were devoted to California’s ballot propositions.
In the fervor and clamor of this ugly election season, many forget that there is more than just the issue of the presidency at stake. In some ways, ballot propositions, or initiative memorandums, can have further-reaching consequences on the state than the federal elections. California’s ballot propositions speak louder to the public because they are issues directly voted for and chosen by the public. It is in this case that the virtues of democracy shine through: societal issues that are pertinent to the people’s interests are brought up and addressed through a popular vote.
Unlike the abortion of democracy that is the electoral college, this means that your vote actually matters. Because of this, the craven elite that worship ideologies of unfairness and exclusion want to take it away from you.
Throughout history, time and again we see that elite people — or, people who perceive themselves to be elite — have held a fear of the masses. Kings, bishops, bourgeois, aristocrats, and plantation overlords all have been wary of the people under them because they know that they are outnumbered and that they only have the flimsy trappings of a title to protect them.
That is why the vote is considered sacred above all else in the many “free nations” of the world: it represents a chance to cast off your shackles and take the future into your own hands. That is why they want to take it away from you, the stupid unwashed masses. To think that such medieval notions would be brought back under the pretense of superior knowledge is horrifying.
Yes, it’s true that there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with the popular vote. In fact, many issues you do not like will probably be passed. But because the causes you care about can succeed, that means the whole system isn’t completely damned. Fear of a so-called “Tyranny of the Mob” is a flimsy excuse for not even bothering to share power with the people. A common deflection of the issue is to point to the “excesses of democracy,” such as the French Revolution, as proof that humans are not mature enough to govern themselves. In truth, the severity of the revolt is borne of resentment to the old system that freely celebrated autocracy and oppression.
In order to combat this uncertainty, it then becomes paramount to educate people about the issues at hand. When the elitists cry “ignorance!” then our retort must be knowledge. They are right that many people initially lack judgment, but they are unwilling to look farther beyond that and, in fact, wish that we stay mired in stagnation. Therefore we must foster a culture of education and open discourse on political issues. Only through doing so may we more readily and rightfully address these concerns. Through knowledge will we understand their fear. And when we do, they will have no power over us.
To abandon direct democracy would be to willingly shackle ourselves to a distant and craven elite who do not share our concerns. In this time of doubt, true ideals of democracy and citizen action must firmly plant themselves in our mind, as they allow us to regain our composure and sense of self in this turbulent world.