No U.S. voter alive in 2020 has ever lived in a real democracy. Even though the U.S. has never been a real democracy, we—the general public and media—generally use the words democracy and republic interchangeably. Sometimes, we use “representative democracy”. Recently, in our hyper-vigilance about “losing” our democracy in 2020, I saw one academic use the term “democratic republic”.
My point here is that most of us aren’t clear on the definitions of these words and we definitely don’t know how a 100% real participatory democracy works.
This REAL DEMOCRACY page identifies some stepping stones — a transition — towards a real democracy. Riffing on Astra Taylor’s recent book title, Democracy may not exist — but we’ll miss it when it’s gone, it’s a toss-up whether we’ll recognize a real democracy when we get there. I hope to use this page to identify some markers—both for the path and for the ultimate goal.
“We’re a republic, not a democracy”: Note to self — don’t be a crank
Thanks to New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie for this recent observation: “…we’re a republic not a democracy” is crank nonsense and anyone who says it is not a serious person. Oct. 7, 2020 Tweet
In the Tweet he quotes his August 27, 2019 column:
If there’s substance behind “We’re a republic, not a democracy,” it’s not as a description of American government. There’s really no difference, in the present, between a “republic” and a “democracy”: Both connote systems of representation in which sovereignty and authority derive from the public at large.
The point of the slogan isn’t to describe who we are, but to claim and co-opt the founding [of the U.S.] for right-wing politics — to naturalize political inequality and make it the proper order of things. What lies behind that quip, in other words, is an impulse against democratic representation. It is part and parcel of the drive to make American government a closed domain for a select privileged few.”
I think this helps to explain why I’ve titled this page REAL Democracy.
A. REAL DEMOCRACY: A Working Definition
My idea of a real democracy is one where
—All adults participate in all group decisions about all group issues.
— Women set the agendas for group decisions (per the Haudenosaunee League, as I understand it).
— All people have “access to all the facts, all the time” (per Re-matriation of the Truth, short essay by Barbara Alice Mann, 2011)
—All adults get compensated for doing the work of self-governing (funded sovereignty, a type of basic income).
—The governing document(s) (e.g., U.S. constitution, state constitutions) is re-ratified on a regular basis (e.g., 5-10 years). This will help youth and young adults, as well as immigrants, find entry points into the U.S. power structures, sooner rather than later.
—All children have access to some level of observing the participation, decision-making, compensation, and re-ratification that goes into a real democracy.
SOME COMPARATIVE RESOURCES
I personally find it useful to compare my vision and messaging with others’ on a regular basis. Here are two resources that I check with regularly, not so much on a nitty-gritty level but on a big picture atmospheric level. There are many other websites, Twitter accounts, etc., that I also follow but these two are looking squarely at real democracy.
Second Rate Democracy
Seventeen ways America is less democratic than other major western countries and how we can do better
A project of Douglas J. Amy, Professor Emeritus of Politics (Mount Holyoke College)
REAL Democracy History Calendar
A free weekly compendium of snippets about activities, events, quotes, personalities on the themes of democracy, human rights, corporate power and rule, and wealth in society (especially in elections).
RDHC defines real democracy as “the ability of those who are affected by decisions having an authentic voice in the shaping of those decisions.” Sign up, read current week’s listing, read archives, etc. The moderator of this calendar is Greg Coleridge, based in Ohio.
B. TRANSITIONAL STRUCTURES OF HUMAN ORGANIZATION
Identify, evaluate, and promote new models of human relations according to the definition of Real Democracy.
Monetary & banking structures
a. DEEP monetary reforms have to do with The Money Question (who creates new U.S. money) and economic metrics (what gets counted as valuable):
Public sovereign money, public money
—GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator) instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
—steady state economy
—women’s work, volunteer work
–Social Wealth Index (instead of GDP)
b. OTHER monetary reforms and grassroots options have to do with banking and distribution:
Public banking (city, county, state; post office; nationalize Federal Reserve)
Funded sovereignty (basic income)
Other transitional structures
— food & farm policy councils (FPCs)
— women’s councils + men’s councils (women’s councils set agendas for men’s councils)
— ballot initiatives (referendum)
— labor unions
— ranked choice voting
— automatic registration
— voting holiday
Cooperative business models
— Complete Streets (accommodating all transportation modes)
— free public transit
— the missing middle
— live-work, home-based businesses
— community land trusts
Reduced work week
Single payer health care
— living skills education
— outdoor education
— farm-to-school curriculum
— action learning
Alternative to police & criminal justice system
— restorative justice
Legal recognition and support for all family structures (not just nuclear family)
—independent local journalists and media outlets
—broadband or highspeed internet access everywhere, including rural areas
Current Legislative & Policy Proposals (examples)
— Jobs + infrastructure rebuild + monetary reform: The NEED Act HR2990
— Jobs + infrastructure rebuild + monetary reform + climate mitigation: Green New Deal H.Res.109
— Public banks (city, county, state; post office): Public Banking Institute
–– Food + farms + democracy: 2020 U.S. ELECTIONS: FOOD, FARMS, DEMOCRACY PLATFORM
Making the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture an Election Issue — for all candidates and all voters
platform + Fact sheet
C. 21st CENTURY GAPS IN OUR CIVIC KNOWLEDGE
Promote public discussions as these gaps relate to Real Democracy.
The Money Question
In 2020, in the U.S., The Money Question is:
–What serves as money?
–Who controls its creation and circulation?
–According to what rules?
Related to The Money Question
Private banking system, including the Federal Reserve
Capitalism: making a profit or making a living
Economic metrics instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product):
— GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator)
— Social Wealth Index
Local food-and-farm infrastructure
—living income for all: eaters, farmers, food workers
—community gardens, urban farms, home gardens
—logistics: keeping the supply lines short
—farm-to-school K-12 + early childhood (cafeteria food + working garden + food system curriculum)
—CSAs, co-ops, buying clubs
—restaurants, grocers (independent, locally owned)
—food policy councils
—emergency food (food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens)
—seeds, plants, garden centers (independent, locally owned)
Women’s public authority
— female metaphysics (center of the species, connection to spirit, birthing)
— women’s knowledge
Real democracy (compared to representative democracy)
— alternatives to U.S. model
— Great Law of Peace and Haudenosaunee League as precursor to U.S.
Indigenous peoples’ knowledge
— shamanism (direct connection to nature, the universe, and spiritual knowledge)
— inclusion of non-humans in decision-making
Access to land, water, space (vs. ownership, private property)
Aspects of a Real Democracy — a personal list
These policy positions are either basic survival needs for ALL or changes that the U.S. needs to make in current policy to make us all peers. This is not a comprehensive list — just my immediate thoughts.
fossil fuel disinvestment
remove racism, sexism, & white supremacy from U.S. Constitution (“edit” the Constitution, credit to Mark Charles, independent candidate for U.S. president in 2020, for this formulation)
health care for all
basic income (funded sovereignty)
outlaw fractional reserve lending by commercial banks
honor Indigenous treaties
federal jobs guarantee
community land trusts
Getting specific about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
Lily Tomlin (in character as a cosmopolitan professional woman):
“When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific.”
There’s a reason that this line from Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe (Jane Wagner) resonated with so many women. It wasn’t only a comment on our personal lives. It was a comment on the abstract nature of U.S. policy, power, and civic discourse, as organized and dominated by verbose men (to the detriment of everyone because the rest of us—women, children, and non-verbal men—don’t know what’s being talked about).
Annie Lowrey, a paragon of nitty-gritty journalism writing for The Atlantic, recently captured one aspect of the emptiness of some politics when she wrote about the GOP platform, The Party of No Content. Whether or not Lowrey has noticed that the Democratic Party is pretty loose on its platform commitments as well I can’t say. Perhaps she didn’t have time or space to look at the Democratic platforms. But I have been noticing the lack of “content” in most candidates’ platforms for years, as well as on local party websites.
Here’s the Twitter thread that I wrote in response to Ezra Klein (co-founder of Vox). I thanked him for posting Lowrey’s article (which deserves all the attention it got), but the absence of policy plans by the GOP and the disinterest in “briefing books” from a narcissistic president is not the only policy vacuums putting American democracy “in peril”. My August 24, 2020 Twitter thread:
1/ “The Party of No Content”
Unfortunately, Corporate Dems are just as bad.
Show me a coherent, user-friendly detailed list of nuts & bolts policy commitments on my local Democratic Party website…. Evanston, IL — Democratic Party of Evanston
2/ I’ve been trying to find such a list for years — some specific long-term non-negotiables: (list)
3/ How about? (list)
4/ Same with the Democratic Party of Evanston’s recent spin-off, Midwest Alliance of Progressives.
Is there an easily accessible list of basic policy commitments anywhere on this page?
Is there a definition of “progressive”?
5/ I don’t use terms like liberal, progressive, left-wing, socialist, or even social democrat.
To me, in 2020, there’s only justice Democrats and Corporate Democrats.
Not sure if my small “j” justice Democrats are the same as @justicedems . I’m borrowing it for now.
F. REAL DEMOCRACY IN STORY FORM: My autobiography
THE MONEY QUESTION, THE DEMOCRACY ANSWER
Counting pennies, votes, and soil particles: Learning and Liberation
A rolling autobiography by a Chicago Baby Boomer
Rolling Draft: an autobiographical analysis of money and governance in the U.S.
(23 pages including recommended resources)
A. PROLOGUE: Why isn’t money more like arithmetic?
B. 1951-present: Money & Governance: Biographical context
C. 2007-present: Money & Governance: Resources for a professional activist
D. EPILOGUE: All the information is needed, by everyone, all the time
E. APPENDIX: Recommended Resources
Money & Governance Resources: Personal lists
a. Books, articles, media
c. Activist sectors
d. Twitter accounts that I follow