Why Progressives Lose Elections

1 May

draw strawsDavid Graeber has a constitutional solution to America’s spiritual malaise.

Progressives always ask why working-class people tend to vote Republican even though it’s so obviously economically disadvantageous. I think the reason is that the Democrats aren’t much better, but the Republicans at least tell them that they’re noble. They are good people willing to undergo austerity for the good of their grandchildren. They are patriots. They are people of faith. The Democrats say “well, we think you’re basically in it for yourselves, everyone is. So are we. So we don’t have to give you very much, we’ll keep most of the goodies for the professional elites and Wall Street types who fund us — but you should go along anyway because a little is better than nothing.” I think right-wing populists hate the “liberal elite” more than economic elites because they’ve grabbed all the jobs where you get paid to do something that isn’t just for the money — the pursuit of art, or truth, or charity — and all they can do if they want to do something bigger than themselves and still get paid is join the army.

What is Graeber’s preferred solution? Sortition.

Sortition, or selection by lot, from the Latin sortiri, has a long history of use, going back to the ancient Solonian Constitution of Athens, and serving the Republic of Venice well for 760 years. Rule by lot is called demarchy or klerostocracy, from the Greek kleros (κλερος), casting lots. Today it is mainly used for the selection of juries, but the abuses of the electoral process, resulting from the need for candidates to raise large sums of money from donors who expect something in return, and the politicization of the appointment or election of judges, makes it appropriate to consider amending constitutions and laws to make more use of various forms of sortititon.


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