Democracy & Why I am a Democrat
What is Democracy?
Democracy is a method of governance where the basis of power, limited by a constitution, stems from eligible citizens who regularly cast votes that are equal to all others to affect the outcome of decisions by majority rule.
Methods of Democracy
A government that uses only representative democracy to govern is called a republic. A government that uses only direct democracy to govern is called a pure democracy. And a government that uses both representative and direct democracy to govern is called a democratic government.
The five common forms of direct democracy are citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, citizen-initiated statutes, legislatively referred constitutional amendments, legislatively referred statutes, and veto referendums. The two highlighted are the prominent forms of direct democracy since citizens decide both the language of an initiative and whether it passes or fails. Within the last 25 years, citizen initiatives that have passed in various states have included the legalizations of medical and recreational marijuana, increases to minimum wage, voter ID requirements, prohibition of eminent domain by the state, independent redistricting, improved voting policies, and term limits for elected officials.
Why I am a Democrat
Using the diagram above, it is easy to see how those who favor a republic form of government could call themselves republicans, how those who favor a pure democracy form of government could call themselves pure democrats, and how those who favor democratic governments could call themselves democrats. I consider myself to be a democrat because I believe that representative democracy and all common forms of direct democracy should be used to govern in all state and local levels of government. While being a strong democrat when it comes to state and local levels of government, I am more of a weaker democrat at the federal level as I support the implementation of just a couple common forms of direct democracy there.
I bring this up because the Democratic Party establishment might not consider people like me to be ‘real’ democrats, but unless the party changes its name to something that more accurately reflects what it stands for, there is no better party for those who believe in democratic governments than the Democratic Party.
Is the Democratic Party Misnamed?
Of the three main factions within the Democratic Party (liberals, progressives, and left-leaning moderates) none seem all that interested in advancing forms of direct democracy across this country. Instead, they seem quite content with the method that gets them into power, that being representative democracy. It seems more appropriate then to describe these three factions as liberal republicans, progressive republicans, and left-leaning moderate republicans. Liberal, progressive, and moderate for their ideology, and republican based on the method of governance they seem to prefer. With this in mind, names such as the 'Left-Leaning Republican Party', the 'Left-Wing Republican Party', or the 'Liberal, Progressive, and Left-Leaning Moderate Party' all seem to more accurately describe the Democratic Party today.
Republic States vs. Democratic States
I categorize the type of government each state has using the terms strong, lean, and tilt.
A state is democratic if it allows for at least one of the two prominent forms of direct democracy. The more forms a state has, the more democratic it is. A republic state is one that doesn't use either prominent form of direct democracy to govern. In this case, the fewer forms a state uses to govern, the closer it is to a true republic. It's interesting to note that a number of republic states tend to vote for the Democratic Party while a number of democratic states typically vote for the Republican Party.
Restriction to Direct Democracy
In many states, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment or citizen-initiated statute can only be overturned or amended through the same initiative process. While I do not support elected officials immediately overturning initiatives passed by voters, I do believe that it's a little extreme to never allow them to amend or overturn these laws. Because of this, I support the following timeline after the passage of a citizen initiative: (1) Within the first two years of it passing, allow legislators to amend parts of the initiative only if the changes are considered to be minor. (2) Between the 2nd and 6th year of it passing, allow legislators to overturn or amend any part of the initiative with a supermajority of at least 80%. (3) Between the 6th and 10th year of it passing, allow legislators to amend or overturn with a supermajority of at least 70%. (4) Between the 10th and 20th year of it passing, allow legislators to amend or overturn with a supermajority of at least 60%. (5) Then finally, after the 20th year of it passing, allow legislators to amend or overturn with just a simple majority.