Pro Rep Referendum: The Missing Link

An interested voter came up to the head table at an information session last week and asked us, “If I’m trying to persuade my friends about Pro Rep, what’s something simple and effective I can say?”

Nobody had a really good answer, so I went away and thought about it. Looking for the main obstacle to this change in government, I soon realized that the main problem for many people is fear of change. And then I realized that the best argument for Pro Rep is that the change is already happening, and the chance to cling to the “good old ways” that FPTP seems to offer doesn’t really exist.

Change or No Change? Not Exactly

Look at the first, most basic and important question on the ballot. It asks us if we want to keep the current system or go to a new one.

Hold it right there. Written into this statement is a faulty assumption that most of us take for granted: the word “keep.” Who says the current system, if you vote for it, will stay the same? This oversimplification seems to pit voters in a “change/no change” contest. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Systems Change

It’s a fact of life. Nothing stays the same. In order to live, people and systems must change, because if you don’t change everyone and everything around you is going to leave you behind, and then you;re out on the scrap heap. Our election system is changing whether we like it or not, and some of those changes are not to our advantage.

Staying Ahead of the Rule-Benders

Most of us wonder why the rules for what you can carry on planes keep changing. It’s nothing to do with a bureaucracy that can’t make up its mind. It has to do with the ability of humans to figure out solutions. If the rules are always the same, then the criminals and semi-criminals and just plain people looking for an angle will find that angle and begin to cheat the system. If the rules change, it’s an inconvenience to the honest folk, but it’s much harder for the dishonest people to figure out how to break them.

Apply that to democracy, which has been around for centuries. Don’t you think that there are a lot of criminals and power junkies and just plain politicians trying to win elections who are trying to game that system? Even worse, when they get into power they have the ability to change the system to their own benefit. So for centuries the democratic system has been changing to the advantage of the most successful members: the election winners. And it continues to change, in directions we may not like.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think.

Not only that, but society has changed. Technology has changed. It used to be that the basic ways of fixing an election were either to intimidate/buy off voters or to put extra ballots in the box. Now you can affect the same results through Robocalls, fake Facebook accounts, hacking opponents’ communication, attacking websites, and any one of a number of ways the public and the law haven’t even caught onto yet.

And through legal research, companies, advertisers, and political parties can select mini constituencies to be tempted with targeted payoffs. It used to be that parties had fairly simple platforms based on straightforward philosophies that voters bought into. Now parties buy their votes through specific programs and tax breaks presented in omnibus bills that even the elected officials can’t keep straight.

The Good Old Days Are Already Gone

So for all those voters who wish that democracy the way you used to know it could continue, I’m sorry to break it to you that those days are already gone, and if we don’t do something about it, our system will stop its slow climb to democracy and accelerate the slippery slide back to who-knows-what.

The Choice Isn’t “Change Vs No Change.”

It’s much too late for that. “Change or Suffer the Consequences,” is more like it.  FPTP is becoming a dead end. It’s time to take charge of our future and make sure the change is a positive one.

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