“Take a Step towards Democracy:

Why a special election is absolutely necessary”

Emanuel Pastreich

Candidate for President of the United States

2020

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Few indeed are politicians who start their frequent tributes to our country without a few words about democracy. They do not bat an eye, they do not even fidget, when they praise democracy, even though democracy lies crumpled and bleeding at their feet.

Democracy has been constant struggle from the beginning in United States. There most certainly have been moments of democratic brilliance that were inspiring to the world, and an equal number of tragic setbacks. Moreover, many who visited the United States in the past were able to learn something of our practices that helped them back in their own countries. We played a valuable role.

Those days are long over. The United States must be the most humble student now, eager to learn from other nations, from thoughtful people around the world about what democracy can be and what it should be.

What democracy means in the United States remains an open question.

The question is open in the sense that there are many parts of our democratic process that have always been limited, from the moment that Constitution was drafted. Democracy was limited by the electoral college, limited by the conditions for voting, and limited by various mechanisms that reduce participatory democracy and limit the decisions made by citizens.

Citizens were denied the vote because they were black or native American, because they were women, because they could not afford to pay taxes, or because they did not own land in the past. Many are denied the vote today because they have some criminal record (often the result of a forced plea-bargain), because they live in poorer neighborhoods that are not provided with voting machines, because they do not possess the identification that is recognized by local authorities, or simply because their vote is conveniently lost in the counting process.

The barriers to voting are growing higher and higher by the day. The election this November is not likely to be an election at all.

There is much more to be said about democracy. Most of our honored politicians will not touch the real issues. We must ask whether we can have a democracy if the members of our community do not know each other, if they cannot participate in decisions concerning their own neighborhood, their own city, or their own state? If the construction of highways, schools and office buildings that profoundly alter our environment for the worse are made without the slightest consultation with citizens, can we consider this approach to be democratic? How can we leave these decisions up to banks, developers and corporations without any direct input from citizens?

Does that fact that we are occasionally to asked to vote, if we have the time to do so, for a pre-selected candidate for local, state or national positions, does that make a difference if all policies are decided by politicians following the instructions of investment banks and billionaires?

If we are not allowed to participate in the process by which the policies that most impact us are determined, do we have a democracy?

The assumption among the vast majority of American opinion makers held up to us as leaders by the corporate media is that although there are problems with elections in the United States, and there are problems with the process in governance, these problems are secondary. These problems, they tell us, should not be the focus of attention, and they should not be the grounds for denying the legitimacy of elections, or for questioning the system itself.

The result of this approach? The democratic system has decayed even further and the blocking of citizens from voting, the denial of voting machines to neighborhoods, and the blatant manipulation of the vote in primaries, and in general elections, has only gotten worse, much worse.

It is assumed that to deny citizens the right to vote based on their social economic status, or their ethnic background is never grounds for demanding that an election be held again, or that those involved in the crimes be charged with felonies and sent to jail. It is assumed that it is not a big deal to have easily hacked software on voting machines, or voting machines that leave no verifiable trace of the intended vote.

But such easily hacked technology for counting votes would be unthinkable in ATMs, or in other systems for the control of money. That is because money is critical for the current system, but the vote of citizens is not.

What we do not have in the United States is politicians who demand that fraudulent elections must stop, that we cannot hold any more of these sham elections, that we will not recognize such elections as legitimate.

Let me say what others are too cowardly to say, but that must be said. The series of primaries held by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 2020 were not democratic efforts to select candidates. The election for the House of Representatives, the Senate and for the Presidency scheduled for November 3, 2020, will not be a legitimate election in any sense of the word.

We cannot accept this so-called election and we must start now to take the necessary steps to guarantee a legitimate election that will restore democracy in the United States. The election must go beyond that, moving to give the chance to vote in a fully verified manner to all citizens and to make sure that various criminal schemes such as ID laws are not used to deprive us of the right to vote.

We must reestablish democracy in the United States. That means returning to the relatively transparent process of voting that existed before the privatization of vote counting in 2000. But that goal is far from sufficient. This election must establish a truly transparent and accountable process in the election across the United States for the first time and open the door to both participatory and representative democracy. Poor neighborhoods, native American reservations and remote towns inhabited by those abandoned by the power brokers must all be guaranteed transparent and verifiable voting.

We must have a special general election that is legitimate.

Here are a few of the issues that must be addressed if we wish to have a legitimate election.

The role of political parties

The special election to be held will be a significant change in the direction of the United States. In a profound sense it will be the start of a positive cycle in favor of participation and transparency and away from marketing, consumption and governance by the few. For this reason, it is critical that we get the foundations poured right. Much of the preparations for the election mean going back to the spirit and the words of the Constitution.

Above all, the corrupt political parties, specifically the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, will play no role in this election. The constitution grants them no special authority in governance and their collusion with corporations and with the rich to exclude other voices and to present themselves as the only alternatives available is unethical, criminal and unconstitutional. Organizations using these names are free to meet up and to engage in discussions with citizens. But they must not be favored over other citizen’s groups. Although candidates may be affiliated with either of these parties, or other parties, in the election itself, policies, achievements and the long-term solution for problems will be the focus for discussion, and not political parties.

Science and opinion

All discussions in the campaign before the election must be grounded in scientific analysis. Whether we are talking about the long-term impact of climate change, about the consumption of energy, about discrimination, the concentration of wealth, the militarization of society or the privatization of the public sector, the campaign and the election must be based on the accurate presentation of facts to the public. False and misleading statements have no part in this election and the citizens are entitled to a scientific and logical assessment of the true issues in this country. If the commercial media cannot behave in that manner, it will have no role in this election.

Objective fact and scientific analysis does not guarantee that there will not be serious divergence of opinion. Human nature is complex and by nature problematic. But there is an infinite distance between differences of interpretation within the boundaries of objective analysis and a politics of bias, indulgence and narcissism. This election will make citizens into citizens and put an end to the criminal process of selling citizens to advertising firms and consultants who are backed by corporations. We will start to create the self-awareness among our citizens necessary to maintain a lasting free society.

The decay of journalism

Journalism is not something optional, a service that is available to those who can pay for it, or who have the education required to make use of it. If our citizens do not have access to reliable sources of information, if they are forced to rely on biased reports produced by journalists who are public relations agents for multinational corporations, there is no chance of creating anything approaching a democracy.

It is required for democracy that we have accurate and detailed information available for all citizens. A culture that encourages deep thinking and rational analysis is an absolute requirement, not a vague goal for the future. We will establish sources of accurate journalism for all citizens over the next six months that will guarantee that we have an informed public and a road forward towards democracy.

The Constitution

The Constitution is the basis for the United States government and it has an authority beyond the blustering politician. But the Constitution also, like our parents, or our grandparents, it far from perfect. It must be updated to meet new circumstances.

In the current crisis, some have gone as far as to say that the Constitution is so fundamentally flawed that something new is required. Remember the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison wrote that the Constitution is “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” He meant that by the very nature of the constitutional convention of 1787 that this critical document was dedicated to the preservation of private property and specifically to the treatment of citizens as private property — better known as “slavery.” Today we still find the rich and powerful treating fellow citizens like property, like cattle. The game has changed, of course, but the basic struggle remains.

Yet, the other abolitionist Frederick Douglass went to great lengths to demonstrate that as a living text that is committed to democratic and accountable governance, the Constitution is inspired and can be pushed in new directions so as to include all citizens.

Douglass suggested that if we read the words of the Constitution and we assume that they apply to everyone, no matter how poor, or how challenged, he or she may be, that the potential in that document can be unlocked.

There is much to Douglass’s argument about the potential of the Constitution, even in this dark hour.

Access to information about candidates and about policies

The selection of candidates for office must be based on the spirit of the Constitution, and principles of ethical and scientific governance. That means that back rooms where investment bankers and the lackeys of the rich gather will play no role.

All women and men of the United States with the vision, the skills and the moral commitment to the cause of social, legal and economic justice, all who strive to create a better United States for our children’s children, should have the right to participate as candidates in the elections for the House of Representatives, for the Senate and for the Presidency.

Their abilities, their plans and their innate moral qualities, along with the nature of the organizations that support them, must be known to the public as part of the campaign. Moreover, there is much we can do as citizens, and as a government to change the political culture, to encourage rational debate, participation by citizens in discussions and an unwavering focus on the true dangers of our age.

I believe, wholeheartedly, that such a process will transform how Americans think and act, how they perceive themselves. Creating a space for such a debate in the United States will allow new leaders to step forward who have been blocked out by the high walls of privilege that surround political parties. It will encourage those who started out in the Democratic or the Republican fortresses to move beyond their limited mandate of serving their funders and their patrons.

It is far more important to hold open events in which citizens, block by block, door to door, are encouraged to meet together and to consider in detail the policies proposed, than it is to permit lies and distortions to go out via advertising that are aimed at blocking participatory democracy. The meetings between citizens will create bonds that will grow in the future and allow citizens to solve problems themselves rather than always voting for strangers who are expected to solve problems for them.

Financing of elections

The money game behind the election is the real election. Office holders are determined before anyone casts a vote. The opinions of citizens have become irrelevant to that process. The “Citizens United” ruling that allows for unlimited dark money to pour into the political system was but the last nail in the coffin of democracy. But like the sin of incest, the abuse of our citizens by their self-appointed rulers is so grotesque, so humiliating and so base that it is easier in polite company to merely pretend that nothing happened, to feign optimism that things will be better the next time, than it is to confront the truth.

Sometimes, however, we must confront the ugly truth. This is such a time.

The only solution is to plan for an election in which there will be no financing of candidates by the rich and the powerful, an election in which reliable information will be made available to all citizens about the issues and the candidates, and a culture will be promoted in which citizens actively participate in debate on policy.

All members of society should be encouraged to channel with their better angels in the open, rather than commune with devils and demons behind closed doors.

Such a change in the election process may seem revolutionary, but in fact it is the only way forward, the only way to make progress. We can already see where the current course of institutional and moral decay is leading us.

Advertising

Advertising is one of the greatest blights on the citizens of United States. Advertising has vastly expanded to include public relations and image making and thereby controls all aspects of our lives. Corporations have become so powerful thanks to advertising that they are able to manipulate us at will, while keeping their true clients, and their true agendas, entirely hidden from view.

It is the advertisers who have ripped the living guts out of what were once newspapers and magazines, the advertisers who work day and night to convince the ordinary citizen, tired from a long and tedious day at work, that the abominations of endless foreign wars, the profiteering by the super rich, are somehow a normal, even a logical, state of affairs. Those advertisers, and their slick television commercials will play no role in the election. This election is about the quest for truth, the search for good governance and the mission of creating a just and fair society.

How to conduct this special election

We have no choice but to hold a special election in the United States for the Presidency and for the Congress this time, and to do so in a fully transparent manner that is closely supervised by an international commission and subject to numerous objective criteria to assure that citizens have access to accurate information, that all viable candidates have equal access to exposure, that all citizens have an opportunity to vote and that all votes are tabulated in a manner that is verifiable and that concrete records remain after the election for every single vote cast.

Such an election is our only choice. But we will not be prepared for such an election by November, 2020.

That fact should not worry us. The so-called election planned for November 3 will be blatantly unconstitutional in nature and therefore completely unacceptable in a legal, constitutional or ethical sense.

Such a situation demands that we hold a strictly regulated and transparent election at the beginning of 2021. The exact date can be set in upcoming negotiations to be held between devoted and honest citizens, but I will suggest here, for the sake of argument, the dates for voting could be January 15 to January 20, 2021, thus allowing time for every working person to vote. Obviously, there will not be any reporting at all about the outcome of the election until all ballots are scientifically confirmed.

It is possible that the election could take even longer and that a temporary government must be established for the transition. As the current Executive and Legislative branches are entirely unaccountable to the law and are controlled by finance and by the rich, such a temporary transitional government is far preferable to what we will get if we do nothing.

Here are a few suggestions as to how this special election can be conducted. I would like to stress, however, that the details should be determined in the process of implementation and that my role today is merely to convey a general outline.

Budget

The American election will require a significant budget in order to be conducted in a transparent and reliable manner. Once we prohibit all commercial advertising, and end the corrupt practices of fundraising from the wealthy, or the employment of dark money via ill-defined political action groups, the cost of the election will be far, far less. But enforcing those bans will be costly.

What we can say definitively is that the costs of holding the election (including getting information out to citizens about the issues) cannot be provided by either corporations, or by wealthy individuals, who have a financial interest in the outcome of the election.

In a normal age, it would be best for the government to finance the entire election and to do so in a transparent manner. Sadly, we do not live in a normal age. The Federal government, and the state governments, have had many of their vital functions outsourced to private companies. The decisions made within government are often at the command of powerful financial interests with complete contempt for the needs of citizens.

The budget for the election must be provided in a manner that is reliable and transparent, and it should be controlled by parties who have no financial interest in the outcome of the election.

Granted the level of corruption in American politics, the request seems near impossible.

I do fervently believe, however, that there are individuals in the United States with the ethical commitment, and the bravery, to play such a role in devising an ethical financing system, and that if they step forward, that a significant number of Americans will respond to their call, and follow their initiative.

This election must be funded in a creative manner that assures that the money used has no strings to the rich and powerful and that if the funding is provided by the government, or other transparent non-profit organization, that it is used in a manner that is not easily manipulated. We can create a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Date

I propose a period of one week in the middle of January, 2021 (January 17 to 23) for the election. This will give sufficient time for the preparation of a transparent and accountable election process in which all citizens can participate and in which all legitimate candidates are permitted to have their ideas introduced to the public.

If we provide one week, we can assure that everyone will have time to vote and that any problems related to voting can be resolved before the election is over. Even those who must work long and hard most days must have a chance to vote, and even more importantly, to talk with their neighbors about the issues.

The ultimate goal of this election is not to offer power and status to those supported by corporate interests, but rather to make sure that the citizens are properly educated about the issues and that they have sufficient motivation and a sense of empowerment to play the critical role of determining our future.

Supervision

The process of the election for Congress and for the Presidency must be strictly supervised by a group committed to true democratic process and to transparency. This group cannot be influenced by factions of the rich and powerful who wish to subvert democracy and to undermine the right of the citizen to accurate information.

The level of corruption in the electoral system in the United States is such that at first we will need an international committee to oversee the process. Being international in nature, however, does not guarantee the transparency, the accountability or the honesty of the committee.

There are any number of international NGOs with attractive names and images who are all too happy to follow the orders of the rich and the powerful.

Critical to the election will be identifying and empowering a group of ethical and brave individuals globally who will be capable of leading the process.

Granted the level of corruption in the federal and state governments and in the political organizations that have taken it upon themselves to run our country, we have no choice but to ask help from this international committee to oversee the election. There are valuable precedents for committees that have played a similar role in other countries.

But although international in nature (including Americans of course) this committee will not be composed of representatives of nation states, but rather of experts on democratic process and elections who cannot be pressured easily by domestic interests in the United States.

The international committee will determine the general approach to this election and oversee the results. The legitimacy of the election will be determined ultimately by this committee.

A domestic committee will be tasked with overseeing the election process in the United States which is similarly composed of ethical and brave individuals committed to due process and the rule of law. In order to restore democracy it will, ironically, be necessary that they be selected based on their ethical standing, rather than through the corrupt political system dominated by Republicans and Democrats.

This domestic committee for the election will spell out the process, state by state, district by district, by which the election will be held. The committee will need to address the question of the Electoral College and its deeply undemocratic nature, the gerrymandering of districts to favor political parties, the use of unreliable electronic voting machines and other serious challenges to voting. The domestic committee and its staff will work together with citizens to address the specifics of the process.

The domestic committee will make sure that all candidates have a chance to address the public and that the campaign will be focused on the needs of the nation and a scientific analysis of issues and policy. It will also make sure that accurate and verifiable voting machines are available for everyone and that there is no room for manipulation of the vote. The accurate counting of votes, a transparent process by which the voting machines are selected, and a guarantee that voting machines cannot be hacked and that they leave a verifiable record on paper, will be critical to the committee’s work.

Looking forward to the future

No one should fool himself or herself as to the challenges facing us as we set out to hold an accurate election. The forces who stand to lose their privileges because of the access to accurate information and the accurate calculation of votes are many and they have been determined for decades to stop any push for true democracy.

But so great is the need, so powerful the desire of our citizens, that I believe that we can rise to the occasion and move forward towards democracy. Please join us.

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