How To Break Democracy
Our task today is to decide how best to erode confidence in government, make the people feel they are not represented, and generally break democracy.
Let's start small. Why not hold elections on a really inconvenient day, like Tuesday for example, in the middle of a week when people don't have as much time to vote as they would on a weekend, or a national holiday specifically to encourage voting?
How 'bout that? One we can check off the list already!
Oh! Here's an idea! Despite the fact that the folks elected will (in theory) be representing everyone, let's pretend that primaries are entirely internal party matters and keep them closed to all outsiders. That way, the "base" voters who dominate primaries can make sure only the most rabid party fanatics make it through the primaries. Anyone who might consider running as some kind of sane moderate voice doesn't even bother to throw his hat in the ring because the sane voters are excluded from primary participation. This helps to insure only candidates the majority of Americans find distasteful at best (and utterly hate and despise at worst) make it through the primaries to the general election.
Hey! We can check another point off the list. The vast majority of states do have closed primaries.
Let's give everyone only one vote. That way, when their candidate doesn't win, they can be absolutely certain they have no representation, their voice was not heard, and their vote didn't mean anything.
We have another winner! A way to make sure that very close to half of all votes will be wasted.
Here's a good one: Let's elect The President using a ridiculous scheme called "The Electoral College" (which we may be stuck with because it is in the constitution), but we can make it even better by having most of the states decide they will use winner take all for their electoral votes (which they made up all by themselves, that's not in the constitution). Now the Presidential candidates only have to worry about a few big states they need to get them over the top. Voters who live in small states don't count. Another brilliant way to drive home the point that you aren't represented.
Another one to check off the list!
The voters might get disgusted with the two parties continuing to do their best to erode democracy, so let's be sure we write the rules to make it almost impossible for independents and third party candidates to get on the ballot or into debates. In cooperation with big media we can ridicule any and all outsiders as "not viable", thus insuring that they stay that way. Our big gun remains leaving voters with only a single vote, so we can always make the argument that using that vote for an outsider you believe in is equivalent to casting a vote for the evil candidate you despise.
No problem! We got this down pat. Even if both major parties have no credibility. Even if they have, in fact, been dead for years and their unburied and rotting corpses are poisoning the country, they still have a stranglehold on the ballots. The Zombie Apocalypse happened, and you didn't even notice!
Despite all these efforts, voters might get it into their heads that their vote matters, so let's get the Supreme court to equate money to speech and corporations to people. If that doesn't crush people's spirits and make them realize that all the power lies with big money special interests, then nothing will. The only thing better would be to say only corporations are people, but even a Supreme court packed with complete idiots probably couldn't bring themselves to make that declaration.
Look! Another way to crush democracy which we have successfully implemented!
While we are making sure at most two "viable" candidates are available, let's have all the professional campaign consultants figure out that negative campaigning turns people off, and helps keep them away from the polls. After all, the fewer people who vote, the fewer votes you need to secure in order to win. Winding up convincing everyone in America that both candidates are the embodiment of absolute evil is a minor issue compared to winning.
And we can check off another item on the list of ways to break democracy!
Now let's investigate how to fix democracy.