The Second American Revolution ~ Overview & Intro

by faithgibson on November 25, 2017

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Crowd-sourcing Democracy:
a revolution of heart and mind to better protect our democratic republic and the creative use of“Big Data” techniques to return it to functionality”

Identifying a Historical Problem with our Constitution & its Consequences

The use of BIG DATA for the BIG JOB of running our BIG COUNTRY!

Overview & Intro ~ simple ways to overcome a historic flaw in our US Constitutional

by faith gibson

OVERVIEW: This is the first of several essays on a topic that is timely and critically important to preserving our democratic way of life.

We must recognize and fix a constitutional ‘quirk’ that prevents ordinary American citizens from having any definitive role or near-real-time effective influence over the workings of the central government in Washington, DC during the years between national elections

The Problem with No Name 

In a country so deeply divided over so many political issues, there is only one thing the majority of ordinary Americans all agree on, and that is a deep, long-lasting and mutual frustration over our collective inability as citizens to have any discernible impact on our federal government.

However, these amorphous frustrations are private, quietly smoldering just below the surface of our consciousness. As a result, they remaining personally unnamed and publicly unacknowledged.  

Regardless of our age, gender, religion, race, sexual identity, political affiliation, whether we are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, all ordinary Americans (i.e. those of us who are not famous or uber wealthy) know something is seriously wrong and it’s making us all more than a little crazy!

We can’t square the historic ideals of our democracy as a perfected system of self-governance — the Shining City on the Hill — with its often disappointing reality, which is a personal and collective experience of political impotence. Blaming ourselves is preferable to a more upsetting possibility — that our democratic system is actually failing us.   

My younger brother Roger ^O^

I meet people every day — close friends, family, other acquaintances — who tell me that they don’t read the newspaper or watch the news anymore because it’s just too upsetting. They know there is nothing they can do that will have a positive and long-lasting effect on the problems currently besetting our country.  

The minute we cast our ball0t in a federal election, our ability to have any influence over what goes on in Washington, DC disappears quicker than a fist full of hundred dollar bills dropped on a busy downtown street on a windy day.

It’s just like giving our bank account number and password, as well as our car keys, to a neighbor we’d never personally met and, on behalf of our federal government, saying:

“Let me know when you want me to contribute to your re-election campaign or vote for you to be re-elected in 2, 4, or 6 years and, in the meantime, have a good life.”

Responsible adults would never dream of doing that, and yet that’s what happens under our current system: We hope our elected and appointed officials will do a good job, but we have absolutely NO effective control over them once they have been elected and no way to impose ‘sanctions’ afterward if our elected officials act irresponsibly.

America’s population has grown too large for the historical configuration of our representative government 

Part of the problem is the numerical growth of our population in the two centuries since our representative government was first designed. In 1776, the population of the United States was only 2.4 million. Our current population is 323.1 million, which is a 135-fold increase over the last 225 years. 

In big states like New York and California, the state’s US senators represent tens of millions of people. For example, California’s population of 38 million means each senator has a constituency of 19 million.

These extremely large numbers make it mathematically impossible for US Senators to spend even one minute with each voter over the course of a six-year term of office. In fact, it’s even worse than that; with only 3,155,695 minutes in a 6-year term, each senator would have to see 6 constituents every minute round the clock, 24-7 for 365 days every year to met the deadline. 

The same problem applies to the US House of Representatives.

Americans can no longer count on federal elections to make a positive difference, no matter who we elect to the Congress or the Presidency, or which party wins a majority. Our chances of winning the lottery are far better than having any meaningful impact on our federally elected representatives in Washington.  

Knowledge is Power . . . 

I sympathize with the frustration we are all feeling, but personally, I’m not ready to throw in the towel. As a long-time student of our colonial beginnings and amateur constitutional scholar, I believe I have, by sheerest happenstance, stumbled across information in historical documents written by the Founding Fathers that explains why ordinary American citizens feel so disassociated from our political system.

The answer is simple — except for national elections, the American citizens have effectively been cut out of the picture when it comes to the central government in Washington. 

Anyone who reads the essays of the Founders, the Constitution and the 85 Federalist Papers supporting ratification of the Constitution with the question of effective citizen participation in mind (i.e. not just voting and contributing to partisan politics!) will quickly discover that the U.S. Constitution does NOT include any identified role for ordinary citizens beyond national elections. Even more distress,  it elevates a tiny segment of the population — the socially, educationally and economically ‘elite’ —  as the superior pool of candidates for elected office.  

The 55 Founding Fathers who were “in the room where it happened” (i.e., writing the Constitution, per the recent and popular stage-play Hamilton) were developing a “superior model” for our democratic republic, which they described as:

“… a new conception of representative government removed from the populace”. 

Madison elaborated further on the goal of this “superior model”, saying:

… the new American Constitution aims … at one large mass republic in which the people can never assemble to govern directly and in which the majority can never unite”.

As described in the Federalist Papers by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, the best model for democratic self-governance was:

“… a national republic whose government is far removed from the direct control of the people .… by putting the levers of governmental power in the hands of a tiny minority of representatives elected by the rest.

“The new elite will be dominated by the members of the learned professionals (i.e. lawyers) … as they feel a neutrality to the rival ships among the different branches of industry.

The virtuous [i.e. electeds elites] in the new Republican vision are expected to be more sympathetic to commerce and commercialism …”

Elected Elites: The naturally undemocratic aristocracy chosen in 1787 to run the new democratic government

During the 17th and 18th century, people generally believed that a segment of upper-class society had special, God-given abilities that made them members of a divinely-appointed ‘elite’. In European history, these special powers were associated with the king and “the rich and well-born” who enjoyed the king’s company, and could expect to be appointed to high government office and to be richly compensated for their efforts. This class of nobles was seen as intellectually and morally superior, thus blessed with unique talents and superior powers for running the ship-of-state.

While colonial Americans no longer wanted to be governed by a king or hereditary nobility, they did make a distinction between the kind of people who should govern them and those who should not. The public-at-large fell into the latter category of who should not — the so-called ‘masses’ of ordinary and undistinguished members of society. As a class, ‘commoners’ were seen as unschooled, uninformed about matters of state, unkempt, uncouth, godless, and sometimes quite literally unwashed.

By contrast, members of the ‘better’ class (i.e. the landed gentry) had formal schooling, better manners, excellent personal hygiene, were fashionably modest and properly religious and assumed to be smarter and better. As businessmen and community leaders, they became the trusted “movers and shakers” in the American colonies.

In contemporary times, these men (and at that time they were all men) would be described as the “smartest guys in the room”. It was naturally assumed that they and their kind (the well-born) should be in charge of this new invention called democratic “self-governance”.

In correspondence between by Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, this elite segment of society was described as a “natural aristocracy“. The Founding Fathers saw this ruling class as a gift from God — the “chosen few” who could and would lead our newly-independent country in our collective effort to govern ourselves. As a result, the elevated (and anti-democratic) role of the elite in formulating the democratic process was unquestioned.

The Framers of the Constitution, who overall did an absolutely stupendous job, genuinely believed that too much ‘democracy’ (i.e. participation in government by the public-at-large) was dangerous to the infant democratic republic they were working so hard to create. They convinced themselves that “ordinary Americans” should be protected from themselves by restricting their role in the democratic process to serving in militias and voting every 2, 4 or 6 years.

Since candidates for public office were virtually all male, all from the ‘leaned’ upper class, all “obviously” superior in intellect and morality, it didn’t much matter who won, as anyone chosen in an election was assumed to be the right man for the job.

Luckily, these counter-factual conclusions about elites and citizen participation were only a small of part of the picture.  The good news was (and is) the fortuitous circumstances that blessed our Founding Fathers with a 1-in-a-million opportunity to perfect the democratic form of government.

The idea of self-governance on such a grand scale was referred to as the “American Experiment” and was seen as unique destiny in subsequent decades associated with “American exceptionalism“. This is the idea that both the people of America and the nation itself were (and are) ‘exceptional’) i.e., smarter, luckier, more inventive, talented, and more likely to succeed in every domain of human existence than any other country on earth.

In modern times, this ruling ‘elite’ are now known as politicians. While we still believe in “American exceptionalism”, we no longer believe that elected and appointed officials walk on water, or that they are naturally and inevitably smarter or morally superior, or that they alone know what is ‘best’ for us as individuals or as a country.

FACTIONS: an invisible poison that killed all democratic governments before 1776 

The constitutional lack of any mechanism for meaningful citizen participation at the federal level was not an accidental oversight, but a purposefully chosen strategy to prevent another well-known historical danger to democracy. Factions are a politically-disruptive influence that Founding Father James Madison described as a ‘violent’ influence on democratic governments.

In the words of James Madison in Federalist paper #10, who defined and described the term:

“By factions, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, … are united and actuated by some common impulse, passion, or interest {that is} adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils {by factions} have, in truth, been the mortal disease under which popular governments have everywhere perished...”

Madison is describing the dangerous consequences of factions in which individuals or groups united by a mutual belief or special interest (religion, financial interests, geography, partisan politics, etc) use their collective political influence to hijack the democratic process and then use the democratic process itself to achieve undemocratic goals by replacing a democratically-elected self government with an unelected ‘mobocracy’ and authoritarian governments, including monarchy, oligarchy, or military dictatorship. 

According to James Madison:

“…majority factions (a voting block over 50%) is the overriding danger in republics”.

He continued by saying:

“all earlier democratic republics have self-destructed because the majority coalesced into a single party led by demagogues that proceeded to oppress minorities and plunge … society into class warfare.”

It must be noted that Hitler, President Erdoğan of Syria and infamous dictators all over the world were elected to office as a result of a powerful faction that was able to ‘game’ a democratic system. Shortly after being elected, they used their new constitutional authority, duly conferred on them by a democratic process, to eliminate democratic elections.

And of course, no student of history can forget the tragedy of the French Revolution that ended with the summary execution by guillotining of more than 50,000 Parisian citizens — all the consequences of a politically powerful faction’s idea of purifying a new democratic government.     

Given such a long and dismal history of nascent democracies, the fears of our Founding Fathers were obviously justified. But two hundred years later, the unnatural and anti-democratic restrictions on citizen participation and the procedural hedge against the dangers posed by factions — all efforts meant to safeguard our democratic institutions have themselves become a real and present danger to our democracy. The constitutional ‘cure’ of popularism and factionalism is now worse than the ‘disease’ it was supposed to prevent.

And most ironic of all, without the guidance and guardianship provided by citizen participation in shaping government policies, the increasingly self-interested behavior of the political and economically-elite class that has dominated our national capital for the last several decades could fairly be characterized by James Madison’s description as “led by political demagogues that oppressed and exploited minorities and pushed society in the direction of class warfare

We, The Taxpayers, and the U.S. Treasury

In spite of the many billions of dollars in taxes that American citizens send every year to finance our national government, Washington DC is no longer able, or in many instances, not even interested in meeting its responsibilities as generally defined by its ordinary citizens. 

Colonial-era Americans fought a war for independence from England over the issue of ‘taxation without representation‘; now modern-era American face ‘taxation without participation‘. In fact, this is the same thing — it’s a non-reciprocal, one-way street in which ordinary citizens have no voice, our only job being to send our money for other to spend.  

Collectively American taxpayers send uncountable quantities of money to our national capital every April when we pay our annual income taxes.

As long as we don’t expect Washington to give anything back, all is well. But if we think paying all the federal government’s bills (which often supports the lifestyle of the rich and famous) should entitle us to participate in the decision-making process for how OUR MONEY is being spent by elected and appointed officials, we are treated like bratty children daring to question the wisdom of our elders and ‘meddling’ in places we don’t belong.

Worse yet, our tax dollars are often treated as a discretionary fund owned by Washington insiders, while ordinary Americans who find themselves in desperate need (such as victims of hurricanes and other disasters, sick kids with no health insurance, unemployable miners in West Virginia, small towns slowly dying all across the country, whole families orphaned when both parents died of an opioid overdose, etc) are asking for undeserved charity

When the particular issue of voting in federal elections is taken out of the equation, Americans living on the mainland of the US actually have no more political influence over our central government in the nation’s capital than American citizens living in the American territory of Puerto Rico.

But no matter where we live — the continental US or Puerto Ric0 — when we are in desperate need of aid we will have to beg and hope and pray and wait far too long, and sometimes get no help at all (or too little too late) from a federal agency that is often brashly unrepentant.

In our often hostile partisan system, the unfortunate truth is the quantity and quality of the federal government’s response are often influenced by the political affiliation of people living in the vulnerable state or geographical area. If the people in that region reliably vote for the party in power, the federal government is attentive and its efforts sustained.

However, if the distressed population should be affiliated with the “other” political party (the one out of power), or the class of people is impoverished and/or an immigrant population that usually doesn’t vote or a territory like Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands where its citizens can’t vote in federal elections, then the interest and emergency response quickly dwindles and press releases claim the federal government’s responsibilities have been appropriately met, and they wash their hands of us.     

What a difference a big bank account makes for the privileged few

However, the arms-length relationship that successfully prevented ‘undue’ influence over the federal government by ordinary Americans in 1787 never applied to the uber-rich and politically powerful

Our Founding Fathers very successfully locked the front doors of the White House and US Congress against the feared influx of unruly citizens; unfortunately, the back door, side doors, and cellar door, as well as all the windows, were unintentionally left wide open to the privileged few — the social and economic power-brokers who have always enjoyed unfettered access to members of Congress and the executive branch.

LOBBYING: Another ‘poison’ that kills healthy democratic governments

I don’t believe this was what the Founding Fathers intended, but the result is undeniable.  A tiny minority of America’s population — far less than of 1/10th of a percent — gets unimpeded access to the central government in our nation’s capital. At last count, there were at least 10,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, DC, along with a handful of extremely wealthy and socially influential individuals (less than 2 dozen); together these “Influentials” represent only 0.00003 percent of the current U.S. population of 323 million.

Nonetheless, they are allowed to lobby for special treatment and enjoy a hugely disproportionate influence over the day-to-day workings of the federal government. This especially applies to how those billions we send in tax dollars gets dispersed in government contracts and other ‘sweet deals’ that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

In the two-plus centuries since our Constitution was written, we can clearly see that the use of political power by wealthy and/or politically influential individuals and groups has interjected a decidedly undemocratic influence into our democratic system. The result is a “pay for play” system that has produced “the best damn government money can buy!

The specific constitutional configuration designed by our Founding Fathers to prevent the rare event of ‘mob rule.  But sadly for the rest of us, this unintentionally substituted that harm being caused by a ‘money rule.

This undemocratic coup is still being pulled off by a political ‘faction’, but the important number is no longer the size of the mob, but the size of the financial contributions made a select few.  The result is an inappropriately-politicized (vs. democratized) federal government; political money has been weaponized and is now being used against the common good.

This is what happens when the American population — us ‘ordinary’ citizens that our 55 Founders described as “We, The People” — are cut out of the picture for 200-plus years.

Pearl of Great Price . . .

But this story does not and should not stop here. In the tradition of our Founding Fathers and all the American colonists that fought and died in our “War of Independence”, we too can rise above what seems like insurmountable odds.

If we come to understand this odd constitutional fluke, and its contemporary consequence, that information will provide us with what we need to fix it. This is very good news! I hope these essays can provide that understanding and lead us to viable solutions. Most importantly, it isn’t about looking backward, trying to figure out who to blame, but about facing forward and looking for ways to fix this problem. No blame, no shame, just eyes forward,  fixed on the prize.

We can and should make America better than she has ever been before. 

I will be posting this epic story in two parts.

  • Part 1 introduces and further describes the Constitutional problem, as well as its history and its modern-day consequences
  • Part 2 explores a variety of innovative ideas for addressing the problem by dramatically increasing the quantity, quality, and effectiveness of citizen participation.   

Thanksgiving, 2017 (and happy birthday my youngest brother Mark, born Thanksgiving day 1955)       

The 2nd American Revolution ~ a revolution of the Mind

Crowd-sourcing our Democracy: simple ways to overcome a historic flaw in our US Constitution

Intro to Part 1 ~

When John Adams, our 2nd American President, and Founding Father, was asked about our 1776 War of Independence, he said:

“The American Revolution started in the minds of colonial Americans, and was won long before the first shot was ever fired.”

I’m proposing something every bit as revolutionary as John Adams’ statement: a Second American Revolution of the mind, circa 2017. Like the first revolution, it also will be won without a single shot ever being fired!

Revolutionary thoughts began creeping into the minds of Americans long before the very troubling 2016 election. For several decades, we’ve been collectively distressed by the serious problems we and our families experience with our federal government; many of us are already ‘thinking outside the box’ in our quest for solutions.

But in the months following the last presidential election, angst among ordinary Americans has reached unprecedented proportions, as the pace, magnitude and critical importance of this mismatch continue to grow between our needs and expectation of the federal government and what the federal system delivers, or more to the point, often fails to provide.

And like the first “War of Rebellion” (what the Brits called our Revolutionary War), our choice is btw being pro-action or living with the burdensome consequences of our inaction. In my book, the best option is to be part of the solution – to personally support and work to improve our democratic institutions and those principles dear to our heart and so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Every Life Matters

The choice is up to each of us as individuals. One Truth I know to be self-evident is that every American, every person wants his or her own life to matter. Irrespective of age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or political party or sexual identity, we want to know that when we die, there will be people left behind whose lives were made better because we lived.

To live fully, we absolutely need and are most fulfilled when we are doing something that makes a difference in the ‘big picture’. I believe that American instinct is to do more (not less) for our country, our government, and its people.

This starts with promoting the welfare of our own families and neighborhoods, then stretching out to our town, county, country and finally doing our fair share to protect this tiny blue globe spinning in space.

As for me and other Americans that I know personally, we are all tired of being watched by our TVs and eaten by our snack food. Captive to our work and play devices, floating around in a virtual or online world, we are living lives of quiet desperation, held in a perpetual state of suspended animation, our minds as numb as our jaws after a shot of Novocain at the dentist’s office.

We want is MORE, but not more of what already isn’t working. We want meaningful engagement, stimulating interactions, intellectual challenges, we want to study things that matter, do things that matter. We want to be able to hope.

So here’s a thought: What if We The People consciously created bipartisan opportunities to be busy with the ‘ship of state’, thus improving our own lives by improving our communities and our country?

In the words of Longfellow,
taken from “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

A cry of defiance, and not of fear, a voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, and a word that shall echo forevermore! … through all our history … in the hours of darkness and peril and need, the people will waken and listen to hear hurrying hoof-beats … and the midnight message of Paul Revere

And we citizens on the opposite shore shall be, ready to ride and spread the alarm, through every … village, metropolis, Twitter feed, and farm, for every American to be up and to arm….

The goal is to make our federal government more functional.  This requires that we arm ourselves with knowledge, understanding, courage, fortitude, endurance, skill, and above all, compassion and fidelity to our historic way of life, one founded on First Principles so plainly stated in our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, our Bill of Rights.

For those with an affinity to one or more of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) the eloquently stated ‘ground rules’ for civilization taught in the Judeo-Christian Bible — stuff like “Don’t do to others that which you would not want done to you” and “Love Thy Neighbor“.

These universal sources of wisdom that tell us that a humane and ultimately effective form of self-governance anywhere in the world is one that always promotes:

  • kindness over cruelty
  • freedom over enslavement
  • democratic principles over all their competing but historically deficient alternatives

I hope you will continue reading this important and fascinating story . . . 

Part One ~ Chapter 1: The Historical Problem with our Constitution and its Modern-day Consequences:

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