• How Incumbents Control Their Own Reelections

    The methods incumbents use to gain too much control over their own reelections are simple, predictable and in plain sight to anyone who cares to look. Let us begin such a look by introducing two simple terms: voter control and incumbent control. If de facto control over incumbents' reelections (de jure control is not the issue here) is primarily in the hands of the voters, we can say the democracy is voter-controlled (i.e., the democratic link is strong). If this control is primarily in the hands of the incumbents, we of course can say the democracy is incumbent-controlled (the democratic link is weak). An important logical implication of all this is that if you as an average voter live in a democracy suffering under longtime incumbent control, you should have no doubt your political system feels no real pressure to serve you or anyone like you. As an example of incumbent control in action, let us examine the illustrations below. You will see that the voters may disapprove of the collective performance of Congress however strongly they wish, but their disapproval has no discernible impact on the incumbent class's ability to reelect itself year in and out.

  • The Democratic Link

    The object of the voter-incumbent battle is a simple one. The voter class possesses a thing the incumbent class covets greatly, and this thing quite simply is the legal power to decide the latter's political fate. People are not comfortable having their fate in the hands of others, so it is only natural they will seek to take that control away from these others and give it to themselves. It is therefore an iron law of representative democracy that over time incumbents as a class, if given by the voters the space to do so, will shape the political and electoral battlefields to favor their own reelections in ways and degrees that eventually amount to de facto usurpation of the voters' power to bend government to their will. From there government bends to the will of the governors, and the very purpose of democracy is defeated. As a class – and by design – incumbents cannot help but wage upon the voters this battle for control over their own reelections, so the battle is always ongoing and always relevant. Therefore, in analyzing the health of any representative democracy, step one is to determine the status of this battle so as to correctly answer the question, "Where does most of the power to decide the reelections of incumbents effectively lie: with the voters, or with the incumbents themselves?" If the correct answer is that it lies with the former, then they have succeeded in their first and most important duty as voters and much praise goes to them for a job well done. (May the rest of the world observe and learn.) Lesser issues may then come to the fore: policy matters, partisan matters, efforts to vote preferred candidates into office, and so on. But if the answer is that it lies with the latter, then job one for those voters whose highest priority is a well functioning and voter-friendly democracy must be to pour everything they have into correcting this problem until it is in fact corrected. No other course of action will enable the democracy to work how the voters want it to, because what they want most – and correctly so – is to be the ones who control it.

  • The Battle Lines of Democracy

    The beginning of our problems as voters is that we are engaged in an epic democratic battle that arises inevitably from the nature of democracy itself, yet we fail to understand – at least in the ways that matter most – exactly whom we are battling and what we are battling them over. It’s as if we were boxing The Invisible Man: we feel the punches sure enough, but we can’t really get a bead on just where they’re coming from. Worse yet, of coursewe want to hit back, but how do we find our mark? However angry we become, however hard we swing, we keep missing this unseen attacker while he throttles us ever harder. The result is both simple and predictable: We The People are slowly but surely getting ourselves pointed to death. We lose 10-8 this round and 10-9 that, becoming more and more vulnerable to the knock-out punch with each ring of the elections bell.