This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Right or wrong, good or bad, this is the system we’ve chosen

A few years ago, I imagined how I’d feel if I were an elected representative. Specifically, how would I vote on the topics of the day? It’s easy to wave your arms and say everyone in elected government is bad at their jobs, but actually role playing myself as a politician gave me a new perspective.

Let’s say you’re being asked to vote on something where 95% of the voters agree. And, fortunately, your own point of view aligns with the 95%. That’s an easy vote. You vote with the majority, and everyone’s happy. No problem.

But what happens when 95% of your voters disagree with you? You have two options. You can “vote your conscience” and overrule the people you’re supposed to represent, or you can vote with them and abandon your own point of view. Both have merit, and both have serious downsides.

But of course this is a contrived example, because very few things are as clear-cut as a 95% approval rating. More likely you’re balancing 60% against 40%, and sometimes it’s closer to 51% versus 49%. This brings the question into even greater focus: are you there to represent the people, or substitute your own judgement in place of what they’re saying?

And what do you do when your constituents believe in things that simply aren’t true? In an authoritarian regime, you can tell people what to believe and punish anyone who says the wrong thing. But the thing about democracy is the majority wins, by design. Even if the majority has gone bananas.

You can attempt to disagree with them, or reason with them, or explain why your stance might be unpopular but principled. But in the end, you’ll lose the right to represent them because they’ll vote you out. Even if they’re wrong. Even if you mean well. This is what democracy looks like, and it’s beautiful despite the flaws and the frustration. Because everything else is worse.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried. — Winston Churchill

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.

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