A Suggestion for Improving the Functioning of Democracy

Stephen Yearwood
9 min readNov 12, 2022
Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

in short, one national party any citizen old enough to vote could join (using the U.S., where I live, as a template)

[If the reader pleases, I understand that the chances of this proposal coming to fruition are vanishingly small, and why. I don’t need to be told any of that in a Reply. If nothing else, though, anyone interested in politics might find this idea of interest. Surely we can all agree at this point that some better approach to politics at the national level is needed in this country. Anyone who has what that person thinks is an idea on that topic that is worthy of consideration should be bringing it forward.]

‘Single-party state’ is a term associated with Nazis and Bolsheviks, historical perpetrators of the most brutal forms of totalitarianism. I see no necessary barrier, though, to retaining the democratic political process we already have in the U.S. yet transitioning to being a nation with one officially recognized political party at the national level. Any citizen old enough to vote could join the party. Joining the party would be a formal process, but would be free. I suggest calling it the US Party.

It is important, I think, to emphasize how much would remain the same with this proposal.

First of all, our system of government would not change at any level. Every geopolitical unit, from the tiniest town to the nation as a whole, would continue with the form of government it has at present. Other political parties could still exist; individual states could retain the existing party system within each state. All elections for office would be conducted exactly as at present except for determining, for national offices, how candidates would become eligible to be on the ballot (see below).

Citizens who were not a member of the Party could still freely engage in political speech, peaceable assembly, petitioning the national government, and (if registered, as at present) voting in national elections. That is, they would retain every political right they currently have, including the right to vote in national elections, except the right to run for a national office.*

That brings us to how people could become a candidate for a national office. In short, all candidates for all national offices would be chosen by caucuses within the national Party.

Within the Party there would be formally organized caucuses. Any member(s) of the Party could organize a caucus based on any particular issue or any political, cultural, or moral perspective. So there would be no constraint on what could serve as a ‘seed crystal’ for a caucus. Members of the Party could be members of as many caucuses as they wanted (subject to the requirements of membership a caucus might have).

On the subject of membership requirements, caucuses would be wholly self-governing. Each would be run however its members saw fit — including requirements for membership, based on any criteria whatsoever, to include ethnicity, color of skin, place of origin, gender/sexuality, ideology, theology, induction into a personality cult, etc. The only rule imposed on all caucuses would be to allow freedom of disassociation: freedom to leave and have one’s name stricken from the membership rolls — merely by declaring oneself to be disassociated from the caucus — effective immediately, at any time.

Caucuses would be organized at the national level and/or at the state level and/or at the level of a congressional district. That is, a particular caucus could exist at any one or any two or all three of those levels. Still, in every case each caucus would be a separate organization for purposes of nominating candidates for national offices. (Similar to Dave Volek’s “tiered democracy,” caucuses could be extended as far as the neighborhood level; in this paradigm the more general relationships between caucuses at levels smaller than a congressional district and their counterparts at larger levels would depend on the internal rules of a caucus, but for present purposes the concern is nominating candidates for national offices, which involves only national, state, and congressional caucuses.)

As an example, there could be a caucus for banning the production or sales of meat of any kind. It could have a national organization and also have organizations in different states and within various congressional districts. They would all be related by virtue of their goal, but each would be its own organization, with its own rules of internal governance, to include the process it would use to nominate a candidate for office. That does not preclude a unified caucus existing at all levels with the same rules of internal governance at every level, but membership would be separate at each level: a person would have to join the caucus at each level.

A person could be a member of a caucus at any or all of those levels. To participate in the process of putting forth a candidate for a national office (however any caucus might have chosen to organize that process) a person would have to be a member of that specific caucus.

To be clear, the candidate would have to be a member of the Party, but would not have to be a member of that caucus. So any caucus could nominate any member of the Party to run for office at the level of that caucus: national caucuses nominating candidates for the presidency; state caucuses nominating candidates for the Senate; congressional caucuses nominating candidates for the House of Representatives.

To put forth a candidate a caucus would only have to have a sufficient number of members. For any given election, to put forth a candidate the membership of a caucus would have to be at least, say, 10% of the total membership of the Party in the relevant geographical unit.

> For a caucus at the national level to put forth a candidate for president the membership of that caucus would have to be at least 10% (?) of the membership of the whole national Party.

> For a caucus at the state level to put forth a candidate for the Senate the membership of that caucus would have be at least 10% (?) of the number of members of the Party living in* the state.

> For a caucus at the congressional district level to forth up a candidate for the House of Representatives the membership of that caucus would have to be at least 10% (?) of the number of members of the Party living in* that congressional district.

*A person could only count as “living in” one state and one congressional district.

At any level, the same person could be put forth as a candidate for an office by any number of caucuses (with enough members) within the geographical unit relevant to that office. So a person could be put forth as a candidate for president by any number of national caucuses, a person could be put forth by any number of state-level caucuses within a state to be a candidate for the Senate, and a person could be put forth by any number of caucuses within a congressional district as a candidate to represent that district in the House of Representatives. Every candidate for any office put forth by a caucus (with enough members) would appear on every relevant ballot, along with the name(s) of the caucus(es) that had put forth the candidate.

While a member of the Party could be a member of any number of caucuses, in each election a person could only participate in (presumably, vote in) one caucus to put forth a candidate for each office. For example, a person who was a member of more than one national caucus could only participate in one of them to put forth a candidate for president. Unless a caucus of which a person was a member forbid such a thing, at the state level that same person could choose to participate in any other caucus of which that person was a member to put forth a candidate for the Senate, and if desired choose to participate in yet another caucus to put forth a candidate for the House.

Caucuses would presumably choose to have some process for expelling people from them. The Party could not be allowed to expel anyone who had joined. People could quit the Party at any time for any reason, but would be free to re-join the Party at any time. Quitting/re-joining the Party could be repeated an unlimited number of times. Yet even people who had been convicted of felonies and were therefore ineligible to run for national office could still retain their membership in the Party. Given the place the Party would have in our national politics, any means of expulsion would be too dangerous of a political tool to have lying around.

It is of the utmost importance that this Party would be separate from and independent of our national government. Ideally, it would begin life as a merger at the national level of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The only thing our government would have to do with this party would be to pass a law limiting running for national office to being a member of the national Party* — and ensuring its internal governance as a party would be subject to the requirements of the Constitution (such as membership being open to any citizen old enough to vote). Any individual caucus could be undemocratic as all get-out, but the Party as a whole could not abridge any political right.

Our government would have nothing else to do with the organization, administration, or funding of the Party. Funding would come solely from voluntary donations from individual members of the Party. Again, given the place it would have in our politics, the rules of the Party as a whole would have be subject to the guarantees of rights of citizens in the Constitution: it could not adopt any rule regarding participation in it that would be contrary to the rights of people pertaining to the political process that are guaranteed in the Constitution.

I do think this proposal would combine the best of the parliamentary system and the system we currently have in this country. The former encourages more active participation in politics by more citizens but makes party politics too much a part of governing. Combined with having a separate party for just about every political position imaginable, the unwieldy ‘coalition politics’ it generates can make government far too unstable. Our system in the U.SA. is supposed to mitigate that kind of instability by including many points of view and political positions in each of the two major parties, but of late it has not been doing a good job of that. A partisan divide has emerged that has made the two-party system a fault line threatening to reduce to rubble our democratic political process. At the same time, our system leaves most citizens, including even most members of both major parties, as passive participants left only to choose between the potential candidates that the powers that be in those parties bring forth. This proposal, with limitless caucuses but those caucuses existing outside of government itself, would combine the participatory engagement that having numerous, small political parties encourages with the stability of our system, in which party politics is not supposed to be such a large part of actual governing.

To my mind, governance itself should be mostly about pragmatism, not people using political parties to seek power as an end in itself. Myriad caucuses with the power to put forth candidates for national office would decentralize political power in this nation, so that people pursuing power would at least be contained in smaller ponds.

______________

I do hope people will be motivated to talk about this proposal and to write about it here in Medium and anywhere else. I do beg everyone, though, to please refrain from boring me in a Reply with one’s thoughts on why this proposal can’t or won’t happen. I see no reason to finish reading, much less respond to any such Reply. That there is virtually no chance whatsoever that the proposal will be adopted is, as was duly noted, fully understood by the author of it.

*Since any citizen old enough to vote could join the party, the right to run for a national office would not be restricted. Indeed, I would argue that running for one would be made easier. So I don’t see how a constitutional issue would necessarily arise.

--

--

Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice