Direct Democracy

Direct Democracy

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: Now that we’ve reached the point where millions of Americans can make their voices heard when it comes to which American Idol they prefer, what’s stopping us from taking this a few steps further, and allowing us to vote individually on more important issues?

I mean, really—doesn’t it feel a bit indirect in this day in age for voters to have to elect another person to vote, on their behalf, on the issues they care about? Why can’t we just vote on those issues ourselves? Will the day ever come where I will get to call in and press 1 to vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage, rather than pressing 1 to vote in favor of Scotty McCreery? Americans (and other citizens across the world) already directly affect the popularity of YouTube videos and the Twitter accounts of causes, organizations and individuals. Why can’t we have a more direct effect on issues that actually matter to us?

Sure, there are a lot of kinks to work out. How, for one thing, can you make sure that everyone is only voting once per issue (as it is a well-known fact that American Idol voters cheat rampantly)? How do we ensure that people are making educated votes and not just voting for the issues their friends asked (or paid) them to vote for?

But I don’t think we should let these matters table the entire concept. After all, there are myriad problems with the current system. Corrupt politicians, arcane rules and regulations, voter fraud—those are all problems we have to face on a regular basis. Now that so many people across the country—and the world—are plugged in, news and information is disseminated at practically the speed of light. It’s changed the way we communicate, entertain ourselves, travel; why not consider letting this change the way our government operates? Imagine settling the question of gay marriage immediately. All in favor, vote yes. All opposed, vote no. If 54% of America votes yes, then BAM. The issue is settled.

Why not rock the boat? Could there maybe be a better way to do things?

HOWARD MEGDAL: At the risk of sounding elitist, I am not certain that participating in American Idol has prepared Americans for voting on complex issues. Yes, plenty of problems exist in the current system. But opening the system up to a greater number of ill-informed participants doesn’t strike me as a solution.

Put simply: the vast majority of bills voted on by the current Congress are far more complex than “Who sings it better?”. And while we are all used to seeing some ignorant member of the House opine ludicrously on The Daily Show, chances are quite good that behind him is a staff that knows the ins and outs of that bill. The same cannot be said for the average man on the street.

And that’s not a knock of the average man on the street- it isn’t his job to keep up on such things. He doesn’t have time, by and large. That’s why, in a perfect world, he’d designate someone through an election to do it for him.

These are big decisions, and require expertise. Letting people decide these issues, absent the time and training to do so, is akin to representing yourself in court, or do-it-yourself tumor removal. Sure, it could work, but you’d probably be much better off leaving it to a professional.

And no, watching The People’s Court and ER doesn’t count as training.