A proposal for 21st-century Florida
If we developed a mechanism for improved democracy in Florida, we might restore some lost efficacy to our electoral politics, our news media and state government.
Oddly enough, Taiwan could offer a way. Specifically, “vTaiwan,” which emerged from the combined efforts of “g0v” and Taiwan’s 2014 Sunflower Movement.
VTaiwan is a transformative element of democracy in Taiwan. A Florida equivalent could help overcome binary politics, improve government transparency and establish a credible channel for civic mass collaboration on matters of governance and legislation.
VTaiwan models civic technology configured to invigorate democracy. It suggests a mechanism to dispossess political parties, and their benefactors, of undue influence over Florida’s elections and legislature. VTaiwan shows how we might deepen democracy within our existing institutions.
This idea is a process not a political party. To visualize it you really need to know about g0v, the Sunflower Movement and vTaiwan itself. Please take a few minutes to learn more by following the three links listed below (and please share any related links you might find), then read on.
Florida’s democracy is chained to a diminished electoral process, which is repeatedly manipulated to divert political power from the public interest. What we have is a feedback loop for private interests to extract favors from both major political parties commonly at public expense.
VTaiwan demonstrates systemic reform in which political resistance transitions to political action for building an online democracy application. The application then becomes a new channel of direct, public participation in electoral politics, news media, the legislature and government.
How and where should we begin in Florida? Here and now in this forum might be as good a place as any.
We could make this a hub for raising awareness, recruiting talent and coordinating relevant resources such as Sunlight Foundation and Open States. Collectively we could use this site to identify objectives and collaboratively organize a plan to build and operate an open-source democracy application for Florida.
Disempowered, of course, the application is useless. VTaiwan works because Taiwanese lawmakers are immersed in it. And they abide by it, which is crucial. That would be the object in Florida, too, which is no small undertaking in its own right.
Constituents of the existing political order are unlikely to step aside for what they would correctly perceive as a diminution of influence and power. We might prevail, nonetheless, as a coalition of voters that identifies with open-source democracy before (but not exclusive of) political parties.
If even a modest statewide coalition managed to win just a handful of legislative-district primary elections, open-source democracy might gain a foothold in Florida.
How does such a coalition assemble and bind itself? The Sunflower Movement was an impetus for vTaiwan. Florida has no equivalent per se but we might create one in the form of a traditional campaign platform consisting of legislative initiatives proposed, amended and decided by public consensus using a well-developed democracy application.
A publicly-sourced platform might do two things: 1.) Prove the value of a democracy app as effective civic technology. 2.) Show prospective candidates that they can win by running on a set of public-consensus measures rather than gratuitous smears and hollow, partisan orthodoxies.
Is it unrealistic to believe in the potential for Florida voters to coalesce around a trans-partisan consensus agenda?
The status quo forces Florida voters to endure a cumbersome, two-year process for considering legislative ballot initiatives, which are awkwardly presented as constitutional amendments. We persevere and approve many by the required super majority only to watch legislators thwart and subvert them at public expense.
For example, Florida voters have called for utility reform and deregulation of solar power. We voted 3-1 for public easements to protect land and water. We voted twice in large majorities to legalize medical marijuana. And we voted to stop political parties from gerrymandering our elections. Following all of these referendums, state lawmakers defied the will of voters.
Instead of asking whether Florida voters would welcome a credible alternative, maybe we should ask 1.) Which measures could we include on our platform to win elections? 2.) What would prevent us from developing an open-source democracy app and simultaneously empowering it with a tangible alternative at the ballot box?
The first question could be answered by the people who use the application to forge consensus on legislative items for the platform. There seems to be no shortage of possibilities.
The Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Act (SB 410/HB 319) might make a good start. Another might be the “Solar Choice” amendment to eliminate monopolistic regulations against buying and selling solar electricity in Florida. Two others might be the so-called Medicare for All Act (H.R.676) and the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017 (H.R.371). Possibilities are plentiful.
What could prevent open-source democracy in Florida? Apathy and inaction. Public participation is the essence of this idea. You are strongly encouraged to join this forum and to invite other Floridians here for common purpose.