Dear Friends,

Greetings from Switzerland!    It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Global Democracy Watch on behalf of the Re-Invent Democracy team.   We  invite you to join us in creating a community of 21st century democracy builders, storytellers and eye witnesses of the ups and downs of building democracies around the world.

Our goal is to create a webspace where democracy builders worldwide can share our experiences, insights and strategies for strengthening democratic institutions and processes, and counteracting efforts to weaken them by authoritarian regimes and undemocratic politicians, political parties and special interests.

These regimes, politicians, parties and interests are undermining and overturning even well-established democracies in post-industrial nations, as well as new democracies in developing countries.   They are interfering with the exercise of basic civil, political and human rights, and causing social unrest, political conflicts and political violence to erupt inside and outside their countries.

They are showing just how vulnerable democracies can be to internal and external interferences.   More and more governments are failing to protect the people they are supposed to serve — not only from political violence but environmental threats to the sustainability of vast regions of the globe.   Governing institutions are proving themselves incapable of building consensus broad and deep enough to solve the life-threatening problems facing ordinary people around the world.

For example,  extreme climate disruption is causing deaths and injuries on an unprecedented scale. Political violence is spreading around world faster than ever imagined.    These threats are escalating at the same time that ordinary people are facing increasing obstacles to obtaining the income they need to afford basic necessities.    Living wage jobs are disappearing, leaving far too many people scrambling to get low-paying jobs that many them below the poverty line.    Same goes for obtaining affordable health care, housing, education and long term financial security.

It seems to us that a primary cause of these misfortunes are traditional political parties, especially in the U.S.    The two major U.S. parties, and party-backed electoral candidates and elected representatives who should be protecting their constituents appear to spend most of their time colluding to pass legislation that puts them in ever greater jeopardy.

It seems they only take a break from this collusion when they and their special interest backers divert their attention to fighting among themselves.   They create conflicts they rarely resolve, causing legislative stalemates and paralysis even when legislative action is desperately needed to overcome life-threatening risks.

To counteract these trends and downward spirals in democratic processes, I am hoping we can put our heads together to identify 21st century strategies for re-inventing failing and failed democracies.

For example, we are confident we can figure out how to leverage emerging web technologies and  the large scale collective action power of the internet to pool and mobilize our resources.    One of the main leaps forward I anticipate is that we collectively devise new ways to use new technologies to empower ordinary follks at the grassroots to build robust democratic institutions and processes from the “bottom up”.

Our strategizing in this webspace will be supported by the Global Democracy Watch e-News, which is published twice a day and can be accessed through the menu link above.    In my Editor’s Blog, I’ll throw in my two cents!.    And everyone can use this site’s Democracy Builders’ Blog to share and publicize our ideas, stories, strategies and eye witness accounts of what is transpiring where we live and elsewhere, and what actions we think should be taken.   Anyone can register as a blog author or submit blog posts as a guest blogger. Registered bloggers and guest bloggers can submit comments and respond to comments. Blogs and comments will be moderated.

FYI, this website is sponsored by the Re-Invent Democracy Foundation Intl, which I founded in the U.S. several years ago.   The foundation is a partner of a Swiss-based company, Re-Invent Democracy International (RDI), which I recently founded in Switzerland because of its neutrality and international peacekeeping role.    (FYI, I hold dual Swiss and U.S. citizenship and spent my formative years going back and forth between both countries.)

The company is building a Global Social Network for Voters in Switzerland, which will be the world’s first large scale consensus-building and conflict resolution platform.    It will be accessible at reinventdemocracy.ch.

The mission of the network is to provide voters worldwide unprecedented web-based tools and services for building voter-controlled online voting blocs, political parties and electoral coalitions around common transpartisan agendas that are set and voted on by their members.    They can run and elect candidates of their choice to enact their agendas, and hold these lawmakers accountable at the ballot box for their legislative actions and votes.

The members of these blocs, parties and coalitions will be able to use the network’s tools and services to build consensus across ideological and partisan lines, resolve conflicts, and grow transpartisan electoral bases large enough to elect democratically accountable governments.

I look forward to getting to know you and working with you to build sustainable democracies around the world that protect everyone’s well-being equitably, and champion the public interest over special interests.

All best regards,

Nancy Bordier, Editor

P.S. I hope you enjoy my photos of Switzerland.   It’s a unique  country that has distinguished itself by combining direct democracy and representative democracy in order to give its citizens a direct role in proposing and determining what legislation will be enacted.    The Swiss constitution mandates that the Swiss government must be politically neutral.    It has never attacked or invaded another country!

Editor’s Views

Critics of Faltering Democracies:
Blaming the Victims Instead of the Root Causes

Critics of faltering democracies are becoming increasingly strident in their misdirected accusations of who they think is to blame. The New York Times recently published a remarkable article whose American author claims the problem with “participatory democracy” in the U.S. are the participants!

On June 29th, the author wrote:

Our politics are broken because of ordinary people who are doing it the wrong way.

This view is reflected in a recent article in The Guardian entitled, “Lies, fearmongering and fables: that’s our democracy”.  A well-known British journalist questions basic assumptions regarding democratic forms of government when he asks:

What if democracy doesn’t work? What if it never has and never will? What if government of the people, by the people, for the people is a fairytale? What if it functions as a justifying myth for liars and charlatans?”

He cites the findings of recent research that quite erroneously conclude:

In reality . . . most people possess almost no useful information about policies and their implications, have little desire to improve their state of knowledge, and have a deep aversion to political disagreement . .

“the ‘folk theory of democracy’ — the idea that citizens make coherent and intelligible policy decisions, on which governments then act — bears no relationship to how it really works. Or could ever work.”

In a similarly pessimistic vein, another recent critic puts the blame on voters themselves and objects to the basic premise of democracy that ordinary people can and should decide how a nation is governed. He even takes the extreme position of asserting in the title of an article he authored that

“the right to vote should be restricted to those with knowledge”.

Such critics are rejecting the fundamental premise of democracy, which is that ordinary people are capable of democratic self-governance. Extremists among these critics even argue they are inherently incapable of directly deciding what should be their governments’ legislative priorities, and electing lawmakers to enact them.

They are bolstered in their claims and fears by fellow travelers who see in increasing electoral upsets of established political parties and their leaders ominous signs of “populism” and dangerous ultra-nationalist sentiments.

Prospects of social unrest and fears of domestic political turmoil by dissatisfied populaces have long motivated attempts by political parties, ideological partisans and special interests to limit the scope of voters’ influence.  For example, instead of reflecting and advocating the priorities and needs of ordinary people, many political parties have traditionally sought to limit the ability of their supporters and voters at large to determine party agendas, electoral candidacies, and legislative actions.

Note only have they circumscribed voters’ substantive roles, but they have adopted a whole spectrum of interferences with the ways and means by which votes are cast and tallied, such that lawmakers elected to legislative bodies are quite disconnected from the disempowered constituents they are supposed to serve, and unaccountable to them.  Among the consequences of this disconnect is that government has become the least trusted institution worldwide due to the inability of so many to meet the needs of their constituents. Significantly, many observers attribute increasing inequality of income and wealth to this failure, as well as electoral and political backlashes around the world seeking to overturn the status quo.

If recent electoral upsets in established democracies are any indication, so many  voters are becoming so dissatisfied with their governments, lawmakers, political parties and politically influential special interests that they prefer to vote for unpredictable candidates far outside traditional mainstreams.

While these unexpected political upsets have elicited resounding promises of increased attention to the priorities and needs and wants of ordinary people, they promises have yet to bear fruit.  Politics as usual, especially political in-fighting among the political powers-that-be, appears to be in full swing along the same ideological, highly partisan lines pursued by traditional political parties and the legislative bodies they continue to dominate.

In my view, if we look below the surface of what is taking place in these political “hot spots” of electoral upsets amidst widespread voter dissatisfaction, the root causes are quite likely to be far deeper than the political parties, candidates and special interests involved in these contests.

As I will suggest in editorials and blog posts, the proclaimed “democratic institutions”, and the electoral and legislative processes that have long been the bulwark of democratic self-governance “by and for the people”, possess inherent weaknesses amongst their renowned strengths. These weaknesses include underlying vulnerabilities that make them susceptible to anti-democratic re-engineering that subverts popular sovereignty. These institutions and processes can and must be re-invented.

Democracy Builders’ Blog

Beyond Manchester: How to Stop Violent Extremism by State and Non-State Actors

Whenever another suicide-bombing takes a heavy toll of innocent lives, I revisit my list of ways to prevent another one. So here’s today’s list and the reasons for the items on the list. First, I tend to agree with the views expressed about the Manchester bombing by Tariq Ali,  a British-Pakistani writer, journalist, historian, filmmaker, and …

“Democracy campaigner: governments are scared of the participation revolution”

Governments are now the least trusted institutional globally, according to public opinion polls. Their constituents think their elected lawmakers are doing a poor job meeting their needs and addressing life-threatening crises like extreme climate disruption.  The result is low voter turnout, protests, confrontations, civil disobedience, and even violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement agents. …

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