As we suffer in a paradigm where those who nominate dictate, our election finance system (juiced by less than one half of one percent of all Americans dispersing funds from a flawed banking system based on a monkey-wrenched housing and tax code) sprouts rotten fruit such as closed primaries and defective districting that perpetuate what I have long defined by three nasty syllables; extraction.
With all due respect to the reform-minded types, we need to come to grips with the fact that we are not fixing an old engine. We are preparing for a renaissance and our metaphors should reflect this reality in order to guide our actions.
How do we look past the debate on debt and taxes to focus on distributed electoral finance, open primaries and banking and tax reform?
Or, to crib a little Thoreau, how do we hack at the roots instead of the branches of our illness?
As Joseph Campbell taught us, culture changes when the mythology changes. This requires telling stories of the issues people care about – education, healthcare, war – and shedding light on the link between the inability to introduce new ideas in these areas and the problems we now face (closed nominations, election finance, extractive banking).
In telling the story of my own journey, I must convey the belief that our planet is on the verge of a massive renaissance, signified by abundant low-cost, high-value housing, food, fuel and water.
The mechanism propelling this renaissance is distributed power. This much is clear and is being proven daily in a number of fields, from cloud computing to energy-positive power grids to modern inventory management.
Distributed power eschews the castle’s illusion of fortitude for the invincibility of the Hydra. With tech-driven magic, it moves forward without a central system of absolute control. It is laying the groundwork for our future.
Yet our electoral system is mired in a structure suitable for 1925. Not only is this system producing an increasingly dissatisfied electorate, it is also producing politicians intent on providing cover and camouflage for those trying to halt the distributive zeitgeist.
What I advocate is the application of state-of-the-art problem solving practices – i.e. distributed power – to candidate selection and election finance. I believe this will expand awareness and better align interests to help update all our core systems over the next 30 years (I have begun thinking of every American above the age of 18 as the Renaissance Preparation Committee as there is at least 30- 50 years needed to lay the necessary groundwork such as converting every building on the planet to become energy-positive).
Moving from theory to practical application, this means:
–Primaries must be open.
–The real voting happens in the summer and the winter (November elections have become more like reality TV) since the most important voting happens in the primaries during these seasons. Just as California has done well, the nation should expect these primaries to be the season for the most rigorous debate.
–Election finance must be evenly and widely distributed for both primaries and general elections. This means that every voting-age citizen would receive a $200 election voucher to allocate to primary and then general candidates. Spending outside of those vouchers would not be allowed.
This would, by definition, distribute the election finance. Candidates would be forced to develop broadly appealing campaigns for millions of “small-dollar” donors. Each citizen would bear the true responsibility of participating in the summer and winter ritual of the open primaries.
As for districts, they have been gerrymandered in Rorschach inkblot shapes by blatantly self-interested schemers. I suggest some time learning about “micro-districting.” This is pretty much what it sounds like and plays on the idea that large objects, like the US electorate, are best digested in small bites.
I have no doubt that encouraging intra-state experiments with open primaries and distributed election finance vouchers is the necessary first step to align our common interests and accelerate our transition into the coming renaissance.
We need to be thankful for the lumbering old patriarch that is our current electoral finance and candidate selection process. It has guided us through many generations successfully.
But the time has come to accept and collaborate on an updating of this system. Concepts such as open primaries, distributed finance and micro districting—unthinkable in the old and dying political paradigm—fit nicely with the other transparent and distributed systems emerging everywhere you look.
Let’s guide their emergence in the body politic as we continue to work on systems, share stories and experiment in hopes that this renaissance—our cultural rebirth—is a less painful emergence.