Time to get rid of elections, Mr Trump

Hennig GW articleTrump GW coverI was chuffed to find out that my letter to the editor, Time to get rid of elections, was printed in the Guardian Weekly in the same edition that Trump's win was put on the front cover (November 11 Special Edition).

It was perfect timing, and occurred only because I'm a little old fashioned.

I subscribe to the physical print edition of the Guardian Weekly and get it delivered by (snail) mail so I can carry it around, folded up in my pocket, and read and scribble on it when and where I like (and yes, I even cut out clippings and put them in a folder). But this means I get much of my news a few weeks after the rest of the planet, and when I replied to a George Monbiot article (Lies, fearmongering and fables: that’s our democracy) printed in the October 14 edition, I had no idea that serendipity would have it printed just after the US election.

Unfortunately, now I also know who won the US presidential election.


Time to get rid of elections - Brett Hennig (Guardian Weekly, November 11)

Thanks to George Monbiot for bringing Achen and Bartels important work, Democracy for Realists, to a broader audience (14 October). I wish you had also printed the subtitle of their very interesting book: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, as it hints at how we could fix our broken democracies: it’s time to get rid of elections. Yes, this suggestion shocks most people, as elections and democracy are synonymous in most people’s minds.

However, as David Van Reybrouk in Against Elections argues and the Sortition Foundation in the UK recognises, there is a more democratic alternative to elections: random selection of people to political office.

Everyone’s first reaction to this suggestion is incredulity, but it is how the ancient Athenians – not usually considered ignorant in political matters – populated the vast majority of their political offices, how the Irish are debating their constitutional ban on abortion, how South Australia is deliberating about nuclear waste dumps in that state, and how the city of Geelong (near Melbourne) is deciding on the structure of its new council.

Random selection (also called sortition) is fast becoming the new gold standard for democratic legitimacy, and although it’s no panacea, it would solve many of the problems that George Monbiot acknowledges, offering much more “room for hope”.

Brett Hennig

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