According to democracy expert Larry Diamond “between 2000 and 2015, democracy broke down in 27 countries, while many existing authoritarian regimes have become even less open, transparent, and responsive to their citizens.”
Across the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, total voter participation continues to decrease in both local and central government.
Young people in particular are not voting, and not weeping about it either.
But for minorities, for women, and for postcolonial countries, real blood and sweat has been spent in achieving the right to vote.
So is it OK to get to Peak Vote?
Perhaps, if there’s a better model.
Facebook now has 1.7 billion users and is tracking towards 2 billion, out of a total roughly of 7 billion people. WeChat already has nearly 800 million. Facebook has surpassed voter participation by any single government in the world.
And before you say, Facebook and Twitter and WeChat are just perpetually manipulating us with all their corporate corporation stuff (See America: World Police, and the Film Actors Guild sequence), let’s look at the deeper principle of strengthening and expressing our autonomy, and reforming society.
Is it really worse, when registering to vote, to lose our information to our government than to a corporation? Does it make you feel any safer? (For the record, I’m not on Facebook, and I vote in everything. Which just makes me old, and odd). When we vote does anyone except a politician really know how it’s going to affect our people and our lives and our experiences?
Facebook and democracy work on entirely different principles.
Facebook (et al) is based on free association. You join or decline to join. It’s based on you contributing what you know best: your actions, your ideas, with your people. It builds as much interaction as you like. Comparing Facebook to democratic voting is like comparing a 7-geared Camaro to a slingshot. Slingshots just give you one shot, which you then reload. The Camaro is a machine in which you have full reflexive command over its speed, direction, and ratios.
You also form networks and coalitions. A fully involved, evolving and cooperative process occurs. This, not voting, is the basis for society itself.
I betcha you’ve had more productive conversations about policy and politics just on this little site than you’ve had in your analogue lifetime in a hall with some grumpy numpty railing on about The World Today I Mean Young People, Really, Civics Lessons Would Fix Them.
Facebook (et al) lets you effectively vote over your realm, with the people important to you, every hour of the day if you want.
The problems with voting-based democracy include: parties who decide policy from a handful of members, moronic politicians who too often become populist tyrants, and of course, the tyranny of the 51% majority. With Brexit and Trump and Erdogan and all manner of other nut-jobs rising via the vote, one could be given pause about voting.
I’m not proposing doing away with vote-based elections from citizens. Put your smelling salts away, my brethren and sistren. Except for participation itself, MMP has definitely improved things here anyway.
But the gyre is turning. Participation in society is changing. We don’t have to confuse Brexit etc with the decline of a liberal world order and reaching a humane limit to democracy. But we can safely and effectively look elsewhere for the renewal of the expression of how we form, sustain and re-form society itself. And that may be by means other than voting.