Ending the Illusion of Choice

Ben Manski Jan 21, 2013

Ben Manski
Federal Election Commission

Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between [people], and their beliefs — in religion, literature, colleges and schools — democracy in all public and private life…”

— Walt Whitman

Until now, the United States has had no federal agency primarily responsible for the strengthening of domestic democracy. We therefore reform the existing Federal Elections Commission into a new Federal Democracy Commission, whose mandate is fourfold:

  1. Convening of constitutional conventions at least once every 30 years so as to ensure that the basic law of these United States is the law of the living, not the dead. Currently, such a convention may be initiated at the request of the States. Until the Constitution may be amended so as to make constitutional reform a more regular practice, the role of the Federal Democracy Commission in the convening of constitutional conventions shall be to encourage and make transparent the existing amendment process.
  2. The implementation and enforcement of the Voter Bill of Rights, as enacted by Congress, as well as existing voting rights and election law. The Voter Bill of Rights is a 10-point consensus platform of the modern day voting rights movement and may be read in its current incarnation at
  3. Ensuring federal support for the principles of democratic federalism, in which environmental, human rights, education, and commercial laws and regulations enacted by our national government are understood to establish a floor, not a ceiling, to actions by our state and local governments. This means, for example, that the Federal Democracy Commission will intervene to ensure that the federal government will encourage local and state reforms such as public utilities, community wireless, wage and hour minimums, clean water, human rights, and standards and services that are more ambitious than those offered by higher levels of government.
  4. Strengthening the practice of economic democracy through public education, publicity, training and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms intended to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.

The Federal Democracy Commission is an independent, nonpartisan regulatory agency. Its six commissioners are nonpartisan, meaning that those who have run for partisan office, worked for a political party, or served as an officer of a registered political party may not serve as commissioners. The commissioners are nominated by a select committee that includes one representative of each political party that has won at least 1 percent of the national vote in the previous election cycle. Those nominated are then appointed by the President and approved by Congress.

Ben Manski is the executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, a pro-democracy strategy center he founded in 2004. He is a former co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, and this past year was Jill Stein’s presidential campaign manager. Manski will serve as the executive secretary of the Federal Democracy Commission administrative, as he is disqualified from serving as a commissioner.

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