The Challenge
Global Democracy Decline

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance based in Stockholm, Sweden:

"Half of democratic governments around the world are in decline, undermined by problems ranging from restrictions on freedom of expression to distrust in the legitimacy of elections."

"This decline comes as elected leaders face unprecedented challenges from Russia’s war in Ukraine, cost of living crises, a looming global recession and climate change."

"The number of backsliding countries—those with the most severe democractic erosion—is at its peak and includes the established democracy of the United States, which still faces problems of political polarization, institutional disfunction, and threats to civil liberties. Globally, the number of countries moving toward authoritarianism is more than double the number moving toward democracy."

"Global democracy’s decline includes undermining of credible elections results, restrictions on online freedoms and rights, youth disillusionment with political parties as well as out-of-touch leaders, intractable corruption, and the rise of extreme right parties that has polarized politics."

"The Global State of Democracy Indices (GSoD) show that authoritarian regimes have deepened their repression, with 2021 being the worst year on record. More than two-thirds of the world’s population now live in backsliding democracies or authoritarian and hybrid regimes."

"Other key findings:

"As of the end 2021, half of the 173 countries assessed by International IDEA are experiencing declines in at least one subattribute of democracy."

"In Europe, almost half of all democracies—a total of 17 countries-- have suffered erosion in the last five years. These declines affect 46 per cent of the high-performing democracies."

"Authoritarianism continues to deepen. Almost half of all authoritarian regimes have worsened."

"Democracy does not appear to be evolving in a way that reflects quickly changing needs and priorities. There is little improvement, even in democracies that are performing at mid-range or high levels.""

Key Causes of the Global Decline

1. Minority Rule

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica,

“Democracy is a system of government in which laws, policies, leadership, and major undertakings of a state or other polity are directly or indirectly decided by the “people,” . . . generally understood since the mid-20th century to include all (or nearly all) adult citizens.”

In contrast, research indicates these vital decisions typically are not made directly or indirectly by "the people". Instead, in nations throughout the world the prevailing form of governance is more accurately described as "minority rule".

Harvard University Professors Levitsky and Ziblatt conducted research revealing the contours of minority rule in the US:

“Democracy is supposed to be a game of numbers: The party with the most votes wins. In our political system, however, the majority does not govern. Constitutional design and recent political geographic trends . . . have unintentionally conspired to produce what is effectively becoming minority rule.”

“No other established democracy has an Electoral College or makes regular use of the filibuster. And a political system that repeatedly allows a minority party to control the most powerful offices in the country cannot remain legitimate for long.”

In Tyranny of the Majority (2023),

"They draw on a wealth of examples—from 1930s France to present-day Thailand—to explain why and how political parties turn against democracy: When political leaders realize they can no longer win at the ballot box, they begin to attack the system from within, condoning violent extremists and using the law as a weapon. Unfortunately, our Constitution makes us uniquely vulnerable.

"It is a pernicious enabler of minority rule, allowing partisan minorities to consistently thwart and even rule over popular majorities. Most modern democracies—from Germany and Sweden to Argentina and New Zealand—have eliminated outdated institutions like elite upper chambers, indirect elections, and lifetime tenure for judges. The United States lags dangerously behind."

2. Political Parties

The large majority of factors contributing to the global democracy decline in the 21st century are instituted by undemocratic political parties. Their actions engender, legally and illegally, not only minority rule by lawmakers and legislative bodies, but chronic political conflicts and infighting between parties. These disruptive patterns lead to legislative stalemates for which they lack effective consensus building mechanisms.

By imposing constraints on the exercise of voting rights, they prevent voters from fully exercising their political sovereignty to determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed. Political parties and their organizational hierarchies typically monopolize these decisions, excluding voters from setting priorities and deciding which candidates can run on party ballot lines. This undemocratic monoplozation of electoral decisions compels voters to “choose” among party-nominated candidates who are already on official party ballot lines, and who run on platforms and legislative agendas over which voters exert little influence.

“No Choice” Elections and Loss of Public Trust. Various forms of voter disenfranchisement, particularly by gerrymandering in the U.S., vote suppression, electoral fraud, and vote rigging, contribute to widespread loss of public trust in political parties, elections, lawmakers and legislative bodies, facts corroborated in 2022 by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

One of the most striking repercussions is the widening gap between voters’ and constituents’ stated needs and priorities, contrasted with the priorities and laws enacted by elected representatives. US-based Pew Research indicates that for three decades, Americans have not believed lawmakers represent them, or care what they think. Its survey, "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes" indicates the following:

"Americans feel increasingly estranged from their government. Barely a third (34%) agree with the statement, ‘most elected officials care what people like me think,’ nearly matching the 20-year low of 33% recorded in 1994 and a 10-point drop since 2002."

More recent polls corroborate and extend these findings. Following the 2018 U.S. mid-term elections, half of registered voters expressed the view the newly elected Congress did not represent their views, including Democrats, Independents and Republicans. (See Most Americans Don’t Feel Well-Represented By Congress. (2018)

Recent research by university scholars confirm the perceptions, demands, and disillusionment of American voters, as reported in Opinion | Politicians Don’t Actually Care What Voters Want" (2018):

"Over the past two years, we conducted a study to find out [what voters want]. We provided state legislators in the United States with access to highly detailed public opinion survey data — more detailed than almost all available opinion polls — about their constituents’ attitudes on gun control, infrastructure spending, abortion and many other policy issues. Afterward, we gauged the willingness of representatives to look at the data as well as how the data affected their perceptions of their constituents’ opinions."

"What we found should alarm all Americans. An overwhelming majority of legislators were uninterested in learning about their constituents’ views. Perhaps more worrisome, however, was that when the legislators who did view the data were surveyed afterward, they were no better at understanding what their constituents wanted than legislators who had not looked at the data. For most politicians, voters’ views seemed almost irrelevant."

3. Populism and Anti-Government Attacks

Lawmakers and political parties controlling governments elected through undemocratic "No Choice" elections are distrusted by people they should serve, but do not enable to obtain basic life necessities and financial security. OECD" (2021)

When elections and electoral outcomes are not determined by voters, they choose alternative means to press their demands, including street-level demonstrations, protests, and violent confrontations.

400 significant anti-government protests have occurred in 132 countries worldwide since 2017, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace" (2023).

Dissatisfied individuals and groups angered by chronic political conflicts sparked by lawmakers and parties oppose their actions in street-level demonstrations, protests, and violent confrontations. They disrupt socio-economic activities and governmental processes, including elections.

4. Loss of Control

By preventing majority rule, and fueling chronic political conflicts and legislative stalemates, political parties often prevent governments from making decisions that enable government agencies to function on a day-to-day basis, and resolve crises and emergencies. They render ordinary people at the grassroots virtually powerless to invoke government action they need to obtain the basic necessities of life, e.g. passing laws that ensure living wages and affordable housing and healthcare, and providing disaster recovery assistance in the face of catastrophic climate disruption.

What is needed to correct these "democratic deficits" diminishing the capabilities of governments and lawmakers to serve the public good is a global power shift to an autonomous web-based platform, a unique global consensus-building superstructure, free of the influence of undemocratic political parties, lawmakers, and legislative bodies to the people they must serve at the grassroots.

This global power shift and global superstructure can be implemented using the 10 Step Process described below. It enables voters around the world to wrest control of elections and governing processes from undemocratic political parties and undemocratically elected, minority rule governments, so they can increase their control over their lives and their governments without external interference.

These steps incorporate consensus building mechanisms that enable virtually unlimited numbers of people to connect online via an autonomous social networking platform, set common legislative agendas, and build their own voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions to elect lawmakers to enact their agendas.

They can also use the platform to vote on any proposals they wish at any time without waiting for elections. For example, if voters oppose laws and policies that have been enacted, or are pending enactment, they can use the platform to vote on proposals that express their opposition and transmit them to lawmakers.

This unique capability prevents lawmakers from ignoring voters, which many often do between elections. If lawmakers do not heed voters' priorities and mandates reflected in voters' online votes, the voters can hold additional votes -- "recall votes" in which they declare their intention to vote against the lawmakers in upcoming elections. Such "recall votes" alert lawmakers to the prospect of electoral defeat and loss of offices in legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

In anticipation of the description of the 10 Steps, below is a short synopsis of the types of empowerment that the social network's tools provide voters to increase their control over their own lives, their elections, and their governments (voters include individuals intending to vote, even if they have yet to be officially registered in an election district in which they are eligible to vote).

a. Network tools enable voters to extend their spheres of influence beyond the boundaries of an election district in which they may be eligible to vote, by enabling them to join forces with voters in other election districts, within and beyond a single nation-state.

b. Voters can use network communication tools at any time, day and night, to connect online with other voters using the network for a broad array of purposes.

c. They can individually define, express and share their needs, priorities, and legislative agendas with other voters using the network whose identifies have been verified.

d. The needs, priorities, and agendas that voters define do not have to conform to those of any political party, and can be updated, stored, retrieved, and shared at any time.

e. For the first time in history, voters have an autonomous web-based platform where they can individually and collectively define priorities and legislative agendas that affect regions and election districts anywhere in their home country, and in nations and regions around the world.

f. To call attention to their priorities and agendas on the part of individuals and groups outside the network, voters can use the network’s online voting utility to calculate how many voters support specific priorities and agendas, regions and election districts in which these voters reside (although voters can decide whether or not to provide this information), and publicize these numbers and locations through as many channels as they see fit.

g. Voters can also share their needs, priorities, and legislative mandates with lawmakers anywhere at any time, and alert unresponsive lawmakers to the numbers of dissatisfied voters in their election districts who indicate they are learning towards voting to defeat them in future elections.

h. The network’s AI and ML-based agenda-setting, consensus-building, and political organizing tools empower voters to create their own online political parties, and work within and between them to build consensus across partisan lines in support of specific agendas, as well as reach out across partisan lines to forge electoral bases large enough to win elections to defeat incumbent lawmakers and elect lawmakers of their choice to replace them.

i. Voters can bypass AI-generated information containing falsehoods and misrepresentations, and actively participate in elections and influence legislative decision-making, by using the network’s person-to-person and teleconferencing tools to engage in real-time, face-to-face interactions with other network users.

To summarize, the 10 Step Process enables voters worldwide to re-invent democracy and thereby increase their control over their lives and their governments.

Notably, the U.S. political system is used above and below as a case in point of key causes characterizing global democracy decline due to its recent ranking internationally as a "flawed democracy" -- a sharp contrast to its formerly heralded model democracy.

Interestingly, a model for rectifying these flaws in the functioning of many representative forms of democracy was invented by Switzerland centuries ago. This model has become more relevant in the 21st century! It is described below.

World History Took A Major Democratic Turn In 1848

It occurred among people living near each other at the grassroots, in a country located in the heart of Europe. They joined forces to affirm and protect the sovereignty of their communities by inserting new laws into the country's federal constitution.

It was a major democratic turn because their country, Switzerland, was surrounded by many countries where power tended to be centralized at the top of the pyramids of power.

This inspiring 1848 example of the direct exercise of people power set by Swiss citizens residing in the smallest geographical units, the canton, has echoed around the world.

The democratic laws they inserted in the constitution included initiatives and referendums that empower Swiss citizens to build consensus around common needs and objectives, and invite their fellow citizens to vote on their proposals. If a majority of citizens vote in favor of their proposals, Swiss lawmakers are mandated to implement the measures demanded by the voters.

This grassroots type of people power, now referred to as "direct democracy", has inspired countless people and organizations around the world to follow in Switzerland's footsteps, adding many possible refinements and improvements along the way.

Voters Worldwide Are Creating Direct Democracies

A global direct democracy movement is now underway comprised of thousands of people, groups, and organizations around the world. Below are links to several of them:

Swiss Democracy Foundation (SDF) promotes projects and collaborates with partners to safeguard and foster democracy, with a specific emphasis on citizen engagement, tolerance towards minorities, and global comprehension.

Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy is the largest gathering devoted to direct democracy worldwide. It favours a multidisciplinary approach, welcoming participants from academic, political and civil society perspectives. It is attended by activists, organisations and academics from all over the world. The goal is to bring together people with different experiences and backgrounds, so as to give activists and organisations the opportunity to share their insights and connect with others working on the same issues.

Democracy International has developed a set of core competencies that it offers as services to individuals and organisations keen on strengthening citizens' participation and direct democracy. It provides legal advice to democracy groups and individuals that want to launch citizens’ initiatives or to advance other forms of direct democracy in their region or country.

It also explains how to implement direct democracy and citizens' participation, what regulations need to be in place, and how to incorporate them in the constitutional process. The Direct Democracy Navigator is an online tool that currently featuring 1227 instruments of direct democracy, available in more than 100 countries in the world.

Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe (IRI) is a European think-tank dedicated to research and education on procedures and practices of modern Direct Democracy. As a non-partisan, non-profit association, the Institute's main mission is to develop insights into the theory and practice of modern Direct Democracy among politicians, the media, NGOs, academics and the public throughout Europe – and beyond.

Since its establishment in 2001, IRI Europe has assisted and advised the EU constitution drafters – first in the Convention, subsequently in the EU institutions and member states, the electorates across Europe and now in the Conference on the Future of Europe – in seizing the opportunity of developing democratic tools which are both issue-based and pan-European.

Re-Building Democracy, Re-Inventing Democracy
For the Twenty First Century

The Direct Democracy Network adds significant tools and activities to the repertory of direct democracy instruments that have traditionally centered around initiatives and referendums. They address the decline of fully functioning democracies around the world, documented by the research conducted by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance cited above.

To address these setbacks, the Direct Democracy Network provides voters tools and services that enable them to re-build failed and failing democracies, and in the process re-invent them.

For example, they shift power to voters at the grassroots, connect them online, and empower them to democratically set legislative priorities and decide who is elected to be the lawmakers receiving the results of voters' initiatives and referendums.

In effect, the network provides voters a unique and unprecedented web-based platform where they can dialogue, debate, and vote on any proposals and issues they wish at any time, and share their decisions as they best see fit.

For example, voters can use the platform to build consensus across partisan lines to set common legislative agendas, decide whether to join existing political parties, or create and manage their own parties, electoral coalitions, and voting blocs. Their parties, coalitions, and blocs can nominate electoral candidates and conduct campaigns to elect lawmakers of their choice, by engaging in the following activities:

a. Build consensus across partisan lines from the grassroots upwards.

b. Set common legislative agendas, and update them whenever necessary to keep pace with evolving needs and priorities.

c. Create and manage formal and informal online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions, and host them on the network.

d. Invite voters across the spectrum to join with them in forging cross-partisan electoral bases large enough to determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

e. Mandate lawmakers to implement voters' agendas by conducting petition drives, initiatives, referendums, and recall votes.

The Direct Democracy Network empowers voters to engage in activities such as the following that can effectively surmount and circumvent obstacles to democracy.

1. Participation in dialogues, debates, and bottom-up consensus-building: All too often, voters play passive and inconsequential roles in determining legislative priorities, reconciling divergent priorities, and resolving conflicts. The network's agenda-setting and consensus-building tools and services enable voters to individually and collectively overcome obstacles to playing determining roles in these pivotal aspects of democracy.

They do so by enabling voters to set written legislative agendas, update them whenever necessary, transmit them to lawmakers and decision-makers, as well as track and evaluate their responsiveness to voters' mandates.

2. Gaining control of political parties, lawmakers and governmental decision-makers. The preemptive role that traditional political parties and their elected lawmakers tend to play in ostensibly democratic and representative forms of government often minimizes voters' electoral and legislative influence and control of their governments. This minimization is often due to the tendency of party officials and electoral candidates to decide their priorities by themselves, with scant input from their supporters and voters.

In order for initiatives and referendums to work effectively as core indispensable instruments of direct democracy, it is vitally important for voters to be able to democratically control political parties from the bottom up, and play determining roles in elections so that voters can nominate and elect candidates of their choice, and determine who are the lawmakers and decision-makers that receive the results of voters' initiatives and referendums. The Direct Democracy Network provides voters political organizing tools and services for joining forces to democratically determine who runs for office, who gets elected, and what laws are passed.

The network's agenda-setting and consensus-building tools and services, when combined with its political organizing tools and services, contains an inherent impetus to continually increase the numbers of voters who join together to build consensus across partisan lines. The larger these clusters grow, the more likely they are to nominate and elect candidates in sufficient numbers to control legislative and decision-making bodies, and halt the increasing emergence of legislative stalemates and paralyses.

Increasing voters' influence and control is vital to reducing the age gap that often exists between lawmakers and decision-makers who remain in office for many terms and even decades, recently leading critics to argue that governments such as the U.S are becoming "gerontocracies" rather than democracies.

While the aging process often brings immeasurable wisdom to aged adults, it can also impede understanding and recognition of the needs, wants, and demands of younger and middle aged adults. In the political sphere, for example, younger voters in various locations around the world appear to be the more concerned about climate warming and halting climate disruption than older generations. It is important that they be able to elect lawmakers who are responsive to their demands.

3. Conducting and implementing petition drives, initiatives, referendums, and recall votes within shorter time frames.. It has become commonplace for voters' roles in governance to be restricted to merely voting in elections. The consequence is that voters' needs, wants, and demands tend to be given short shrift by political parties and their elected representatives who spend much of their time opposing each other and blocking each others' legislative initiatives.

The Direct Democracy Network counteracts this undemocratic passivity by enabling voters to use the network as a platform to vote on any proposals they wish, at any time, anywhere, e.g. for conducting online petition drives, initiatives, referendums, and recall votes. They do not have to sit by passively between elections while lawmakers ignore them. If lawmakers are unresponsive, voters can conduct recall votes, transmit their results to warn unresponsive lawmakers when they risk electoral defeat if they fail to honor voters demands, and ultimately defeat them at the polls when they seek re-election.

4. Creating an autonomous, voter-centered platform functioning autonomously of existing governing institutions and processes: Voters can use the network's platform to shift electoral and legislative control to themselves at the grassroots without previously changing existing governance frameworks. Voters worldwide can access the network's and use tools and services free of charge. They can form online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions hosted on the network, whose members register to vote in election districts and venues where they are entitled to vote. These actions are separate and independent of the activities that take place using the platform.

5. Transnationally connecting People-to-People problem-solvers within and across nation-state boundaries.. Voters throughout the world are experiencing many of the same needs, crises, and emergencies for which their individual governments have yet to devise effective solutions and reconcile divergent priorities. The Direct Democracy Network provides them a platform where they can join forces to devise common solutions, policies, and programs, and take action within their home countries to implement their plans. This is especially indispensable with respect to devising and seeking to implement common, amicable, non-violent solutions to spreading and escalating conflicts.

Fortunately, the spread of mobile telecommunications and digitization of popular communications have brought tens of millions of devoted and capable individuals, groups, and organizations worldwide into active, public, problem-solving processes. Sole governments are no longer separate and isolated problem-solvers and implementors. What can accelerate this new plateau of decision-making are the tools provided by the direct democracy movement and the Direct Democracy Network platform designed to bring voters at the grassroots directly into these processes.

Overview of the 10 Step Process

Step 1. Voters use the Direct Democracy Network to create a decentralized civic infrastructure of democracy by engaging in continuous grassroots deliberations, debates, and online voting.

Step 2. Voters use the crowdsourcing tools accessible on the Direct Democracy Network to connect and unite online to gain control of elections and legislation.

Step 3. Voters define and share their legislative priorities, collaborate to build consensus across partisan lines, and collectively set common legislative agendas.

Step 4. Voters join forces online to build their own online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions.

Step 5. Voters’ blocs, parties, and coalitions nominate electoral candidates, place them on official ballot lines, and elect them to enact voters' legislative agendas.

Step 6. Voters fact check and debunk social media disinformation using the network's Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) tools.

Step 7. Voters use Direct Democracy Network tools to conduct petition drives, referenda, initiatives, and recall votes; publicize their results, and mandate lawmakers to enact voters' legislative priorities.

Step 8. Voters mandate lawmakers they elect to reform election laws and legislative processes to ensure Majority Rule throughout all branches of government, while protecting universally recognized Minority Rights.

Step 9. Voters use network tools to raise funds online to finance and conduct campaigns to elect their candidates.

Step 10. Voters create a new "International Order" by building multi-national online voting blocs, political parties, and electoral coalitions; devising and enacting common peace-keeping plans; and voting online to collectively deploy multi-national peacekeepers to resolve conflicts without the use of force.


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