© 2016 by Rose Kincade. Candidate number P00009373

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Many people are disillusioned with the government more than ever before. People all across America are fed up and calling for new, young, and modern people to take on the challenges of government. The government should serve voters, not corporate special interests, and many people feel that reshaping American Government in the 21st century is a necessity rather than an option.

 

The declaration of independence states “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” This statement found in the Declaration of Independence declares the right of the people of the United States to elect new representatives that will make, in force and maintain laws and regulations that serve the needs and responsibilities of the majority of the people and not the big business. It also provides a means for the American people to install new forms of government, including establishing a 'direct democracy' that will give the people the power to shape America directly instead of allowing a few men and women to make decisions for us. 

 

I believe the time has come for a significant change in the United States. Currently, a person must be aged 35 or over to be President or Vice President, 30 years or over to be a Senator, and 25 years or over to be a Representative, as specified in the U.S. Constitution. Most states in the U.S. also have age requirements for the offices of Governor, State Senator, and State Representative. 

 

The president of the United States has a term limit of 2 terms, while Senators and Representatives have no term limits. Senators and Representatives can efficiently serve eight and seven times, respectfully, before retiring. In other words, Senators, and Representatives do not need to worry how quickly they take care of issues they want to change. Alternatively, even bother if the people realize how their Senators and Representatives vote on issues that the people care about going a particular direction. 

 

A solution to this is by placing term limits on Senators and Representatives. I believe that there should be a one-term limit for both Senators and Representatives. Those who serve in either the Senate or House may serve an additional term in the other and may help the two-term limit as President. However, Once a term as President has been served, that individual may not serve as a Senator or Representative.

 

The next thing we need to change is the establishment of a direct democracy system at the city, state, and federal levels to allow people the ability to be more directly involved in how they are treated in society. The best example that I can find for this type of democratic system is Switzerland's direct democracy which has ranked higher than the US by EIU for several decades.

 

The pure form of direct democracy exists only in the Swiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. The Swiss Confederation is a semi-direct democracy (representative democracy with robust instruments of direct democracy). The nature of direct democracy in Switzerland is fundamentally complemented by its federal governmental structures (in German also called the Subsidiaritätsprinzip).

 

Most western countries have representative systems. Switzerland is a rare example of a country with instruments of direct democracy (at the levels of the municipalities, cantons, and federal state). Citizens have more power than in a representative democracy. On any political level, citizens can propose changes to the constitution (popular initiative), or ask for an optional referendum to be held on any law voted by the federal, cantonal parliament and/or municipal legislative body.

 

The list for mandatory or optional referendums on each political level is generally much longer in Switzerland than in any other country. For example, any amendment to the constitution, must automatically be voted on by the Swiss electorate and cantons, on cantonal/communal levels often any financial decision of a certain substantial amount decreed by legislative and/or executive bodies as well.

 

Swiss citizens regularly vote on any issue on every political level, such as financial approvals of a schoolhouse or the building of a new street, or the change of the policy regarding sex workers, or on constitutional amendments, or on the foreign policy of Switzerland, four times a year. Between January 1995 and June 2005, Swiss citizens voted 31 times, on 103 federal questions besides many more cantonal and municipal issues. During the same period, French citizens participated in only two referendums.

 

In Switzerland, simple majorities are sufficient at the municipal and cantonal level, but at the federal level double majorities are required on constitutional issues.

 

A double majority requires approval by a majority of individuals voting, and also by a majority of cantons. Thus, in Switzerland, a citizen-proposed amendment to the federal constitution (i.e., popular initiative) cannot be passed at the national level if a majority of the people approve, but a majority of the cantons disapprove. For referendums or propositions in general terms (like the principle of a general revision of the Constitution), a majority of those voting is sufficient (Swiss Constitution, 2005).

 

In 1890, when the provisions for Swiss national citizen lawmaking were being debated by civil society and government, the Swiss adopted the idea of double majorities from the United States Congress, in which House votes were to represent the people and Senate votes were to represent the states. According to its supporters, this "legitimacy-rich" approach to national citizen lawmaking has been very successful. Kris Kobach claims that Switzerland has had tandem successes both socially and economically which are matched by only a few other nations. Kobach states at the end of his book, "Too often, observers deem Switzerland an oddity among political systems. It is more appropriate to regard it as a pioneer." Finally, the Swiss political system, including its direct democratic devices in a multi-level governance context, becomes increasingly interesting for scholars of European Union integration.

 

In the New England region of the United States, towns in areas such as Vermont decide local affairs through the direct democratic process of the town meeting. This is the oldest form of direct democracy in the United States and predates the founding of the country by at least a century.

 

Direct democracy was not what the framers of the United States Constitution envisioned for the nation. They saw a danger in the tyranny of the majority. As a result, they advocated a representative democracy in the form of a constitutional republic over a direct democracy. For example, James Madison, in Federalist No. 10, supported a constitutional government over direct democracy precisely to protect the individual from the will of the majority. He said Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

 

A pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A majority will feel a shared passion or interest, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, said: "Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state – it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage." Alexander Hamilton said, "That a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity."

Despite the framers' intentions at the beginning of the republic, ballot measures and their corresponding referendums have been widely used at the state and sub-state level. There is much state and federal case law, from the early 1900s to the 1990s, which protects the people's right to each of these direct democracy governance components (Magleby, 1984, and Zimmerman, 1999). The first United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of the citizen lawmaking was in Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Company v. Oregon, 223 U.S. 118 in 1912 (Zimmerman, December 1999). President Theodore Roosevelt, in his "Charter of Democracy" speech to the 1912 Ohio constitutional convention, stated: "I believe in the Initiative and Referendum, which should be used not to destroy representative government, but to correct it whenever it becomes misrepresentative."

Government Reform