Do democratic government systems create democracy? What could contribute to improving how our democratic systems work? Is democracy possible in a community? Is democracy having a vote or a voice? Who should have a voice? Who should have a vote if needed? How do we improve our ability to contribute our voice to our community enterprise?
If community democracy serves interests we have in common as a community, how does that relate to our common identity as a community, who we are, our culture, and our common enterprise? How could democracy be defined? What systems could contribute to improving our ability to create democracy?
What Democracy Needs
The societies we are striving to create — free, democratic, willing to some degree to share equally — require strong identification on the part of their citizens.
A citizen democracy can only work if most of its members are convinced that their political society is a common venture of considerable moment, and believe it to be of vital importance that they participate in the ways they must to keep it functioning as a democracy.
This means not only a commitment to the common project, but also a special sense of bonding among people working together in this project. This is perhaps the point at which most contemporary democracies threaten to fall apart.
A citizen democracy is highly vulnerable to the alienation which arises from deep inequalities and the sense of neglect and indifference that easily arises among abandoned minorities.
This means they must be capable of adopting policies with redistributive effect, and to some extent also with redistributive intent. And such policies require a high degree of mutual commitment.
Where we are now
We do not have the ability to contribute our point of view to our community, our community leaders, and our government leaders and decision-makers.
Making informed choices requires literacy, the ability to understand communications, the ability to make informed choices, and the ability to contribute to the conversation
The politics of our democratic government systems contribute to creating us and them and to the idea of a democracy as a choice between us or them.
The idea of a democracy is that our government institutions and our elected and appointed governing officials represent and make decisions in the interests of the community of common interest they serve.
If people seeking to be our elected representatives do not give us the information we need about their experience, their interests, and their ideas, we can not make informed choices.
What we can do
We cannot easily change our government systems. We can change the way we govern ourselves. We can change the way we respond to the behaviour and decisions of citizens who take or are given power over our government – over our laws and our investments in our safety, our health, our education, and our well-being, – over our common resources held in trust for our community, – and over our relationships with other communities.
We can explore how we can create democracy in communities that demonstrate an interest in the idea, – communities who are creating governing structures and processes that give community contributors a voice, and a vote if needed, in communities of common enterprise, and in community enterprises pursuing common interests.
We could explore ideas on how we could become informed and more able to contribute our point of view.
My Point of View
What do we mean by Democracy
Democracy is an egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens of a nation together determine public policy, the laws and the actions of their state, requiring that all citizens, meeting certain qualifications, have an equal opportunity to express their opinion. In practice, “democracy” is the extent to which a given system approximates this ideal, and a given political system is referred to as “a democracy” if it allows a certain approximation to ideal democracy. Although no country has ever granted all its citizens the vote, most countries today hold regular elections based on egalitarian principles, at least in theory.
Elements considered essential to democracy include freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, so that citizens are adequately informed and able to vote according to their own best interests as they see them. The term “democracy” is often used as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include elements such as political pluralism; equality before the law; the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances; due process; civil liberties; human rights; and elements of civil society outside the government.
The growing gap in voter behaviour
Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates, opened the door on the growing gap between the world of the voter and the world of the non-voter, two worlds with boundaries etched increasingly by telephone usage and, most important, age. Election 2011 revealed a voting fault line delineated by a generation gap.
On one side of the gap: Canadians over 45 enthusiastically favouring the Conservatives, with a likelihood of voting starting at about 60 per cent and rising with age to more than 80 per cent.
On the other side: younger Canadians generally disliking the Conservatives, but with a voting likelihood of at most 40 per cent, decreasing to about 30 per cent for the youngest electoral cohort, those under the age of 25.
The proportion of Canadians who vote has always increased with age, but the differential has never been as great as it is now. In addition, the values gulf between young and old probably has never been greater. And the demographic skewing of the population – proportionately so many older people – is almost certainly unprecedented.
UBC Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions
Democracy is much more than a way of making governments responsive to the wishes of the people. Well-designed and innovative democratic institutions can and do reduce violence and deprivation, and increase freedom, diversity, tolerance, education, health, social innovation, cultural creativity, and economic development.
Strengthening Democracy in Canada
Canadians’ changing commitment to democracy hides their underlying and continued dissatisfaction with the way their democracy is working, and a less than full embrace of representative democracy as the best way to govern their country. Doubts about Canada’s democracy are very much tied to Canadians’ questioning their role in the democratic process or if they can have any influence on what government does. And, they are largely of the view that elected officials are insensitive to their views or interests.