Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Deficit

Last night ... so much different than two years ago, especially the mood swing that occurred from when I left New Hampshire as as poll watcher (yes, I had the power to challenge votes! but I didn't) to when I had a headache at 1 am. I like the idea of a legislature that involves itself in matters of oversight and administration than 'big projects.'

Anyway, Brandon has some interest reflections on what votes really mean--that is, the reality beneath the euphemisms that pundits and commentators pile on top of them.

Points 2, 3, and 8 are particularly interesting because they reflect to the extent that an election is the "voice of the people" (as is point 7, as it connects voting to the psychology of mass politics). Elections are, at best, an attempt at collective agreement among voters that, in the end, is never an expression of the full electorate. On the one hand, choices are not what the people want, but what is made available to them. They cannot pick z when only options x and y are put on the table, as Brandon points out.

On the other, the selection of x over y does not indicate that the entire electorate choice x. Voters for y, in this sense, do not contribute to the collective decision that has been made, and their votes are not counted among the "voices of the people," no matter how small their numbers.

Pierre Rosanvallon, a French political scientist, refers to this as the deficit of representation (or democratic deficit), a problem that arose with the transition from monarchy to parliamentary democracy. Despite equating the nation with the people (as Siéyès did), voting systems and legislative bodies could never become identical to the nation. Despite every measure to fold the minority back into the governing process, majorities excluded largswatheshs of the population. Moreover, the inability to identify the two led to increasing politicization and partisanship: counter-democratic institutions to create a majority by driving a smaller section of the electorate. Rosanvallon's view is not all doom and gloom: democracy may be "unachieveded," but the counter-democratic institutions do not overturn democracy.

The "voices of the people" are diverse, multivalent, personal, and complicated. Speaking of the vote in the singular ascribes motives to those who did not see their desires met, regardless of how they were formulated.

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