Three Reasons Why Israeli Democracy Works And American Democracy Does Not

American democracy needs an overhaul before it is too late.

The Knesset building in Jerusalem – the seat of Israeli democracy
Copyright: Chris Yunker from St. Louis, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the beginning of this article I must dispense with the nonsense, for some reason prevalent in American nationalist circles, that America is not a democracy. “It is a Constitutional Republic!” They exclaim with glee, expecting you to bend the knee to their superior knowledge. So no. America IS a democracy, simply because “democracy” is shorthand for “government by the people”, or a system of governance in which the people have a large say. That is all. How the term “people” is defined for this purpose, i.e. who gets to vote and how the will of the people is translated into the actual mechanism of governance may and does widely vary, but if the majority of the adult population in your country gets a say in who governs it, you live in a democracy.

Democracies are effective systems of government when three conditions are met:

  1. The vast majority of the population, perhaps upwards of 75%, can agree on a few foundational principles as it relates to their homeland, the country in which they get to cast their votes.
  2. The voting system is set up in a way that allows people to vote for representatives or parties that best represent their interests and can effectively fight to promote these interests while in office.
  3. The voting public is willing to express its views to the government outside of the ballot box by demonstrating, engaging in sitdowns at government offices, etc.

In Israel, Condition 1 is met, because very nearly all Jewish Israelis, a 75% majority in the population, believe that the Jews are a nation like any other, that it has a historical homeland between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, and that because of that Israel as a modern state has a right to exist in the world. Everything else is a matter of discussion and extreme disagreement, sometimes to the point of hatred and even verbal abuse. These foundational beliefs, however, are a matter of wide consensus. In America, before the massive waves of diversity-driven immigration and illegal migration of the last fifty years and the radical shift of the American business and academic elites towards progressivism around the same time period, Condition 1 was also met. It was met, because most Americans, the vast majority, believed that America had a superior system of governance enshrined in the Constitution, that America was a force for good in the world, and that the creation of the political entity known as the United States of America in the North American continent was just and good. Today, if the American population of voting age were to be polled about the veracity of these statements, I doubt the yes votes would cross over the 50% mark. If only people before the age of say 50 were polled, America would fare significantly worse yet.

When the first condition is not met, the other two become moot. What failure to meet the first condition really means is that the country in question survives due only to inertia and not the support of the majority of its inhabitants. Since all inertia eventually exhausts itself, It means that the country in question is a walking cadaver, a zombie, whose fate is to die, whether violently or peacefully and either fall apart or be reborn as something totally different.

Condition 2 is met in Israel, because it has a multitude of parties representing a multitude of interests. It has a veritable smorgasbord of political platforms and voters can choose which one suits them best. There are parties representing the political agenda of Arab citizens, parties that cater to the interests of ultra-Orthodox non-Zionist Jews, and those Orthodox Jews who are ardently Zionist. Parties that want Israel to be more ostensibly Jewish and parties that wish it to be less so.

In America, if you reside in rural Massachusetts, for example, your political aspirations on the federal level are impossible to express. The American two party system force everyone to make impossible compromises with their votes, often leading to outcomes in which voters are simply silenced and their participation in the election process rendered mute. In Massachusetts, most people live in the Greater Boston Area and most of these people are progressive liberals, so they vote for the Democratic Party. Since Massachusetts is a winner take all state for the purposes of the electoral college, voting Republican is meaningless. It’s a waste of time. Even at the congressional level district, when the choice is binary between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, a rural district will still vote Democratic because the Republican Party, for example, is too pro-gun. Perhaps the person elected will be less progressive than his or her counterpart from Cambridge, but in Congress, he or she will toe the party line and their constituents will have little or no say about it.

In Israel, even the smallest party, as long as it can cross the four seat minimum threshold, can hold tremendous power as a must-have coalition partner. It can negotiate for itself an by extension its voters ministerial positions, placements on important committees in the Knesset; in short: it can be a vehicle for driving its voters’ agenda. In America, most voters are disenfranchised by the two party system; their agendas, be they guns, or farming, or intellectual property theft by China, must remain unaffected by their votes. The two party system is particularly bad when the voting public is more diverse, as is the case in America today. When most Americans agreed on the fundamentals, it was perhaps sufficient to have two parties: one representing the patrician classes, the other the plebeian. Today, this system simply does not work.

Condition 3 is not only met, it is exceeded in Israel. Not a day passes that a major traffic artery isn’t blocked by a demonstration of disabled people, or pensioners and retirees, or people demanding more robust response against Arab terror or those who, on the contrary, demand concessions and peaceful overtures. Tent cities spring up in the driveways and alleys where elected and unelected government officials live demanding that they change their stance on this issue or that. The Israeli public speaks; it speaks constantly and loudly. It holds it representative to account. In America, this condition is met, but only partially. It is top down whereas it is supposed to be grassroots. Whether a “Women’s March” or a Trump rally, or a “March for Life, Americans show up to events that are organized by somebody else; politicians, political activists, run of the mill mountebanks with an ax to grind. Money is involved, big money. For busing, for signs, for hats. Big money is controlled by powerful interests who have their own agendas at heart and nobody else’s. Americans today are unused to spontaneous, grassroots expressions of their will, they vent their frustrations in social media, speaking to their own echo chambers, never taking risks, never really engaging. Or almost. The recent incident with Covington Catholic shows that this condition, the need for direct citizen participation in their own governance yet lives in America.

There is no going back. America will never become less diverse, only more so. If America is to survive, it needs to adjust its system of governance. The Constitution does not prohibit a plurality of political parties. There is no reason why the majority in the House of Representatives could only be achieved via a coalition of parties sharing diverse interests with a common core, rather than just one party that so often falls prey, as is now the case with the Democrats, to its own radical wing. Such a development would give everyone in America, regardless of where they live, a chance to advance the agenda they hold most dear, and isn’t that the whole point?

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