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Did the Greeks Just Re-Invent Democracy?

It’s often noted that the Greeks invented Democracy — that it’s in fact a word of Greek origin, from dēmos “the people” and -kratia “power, rule.”

Too often, as anyone who has lived in a modern “democracy” for any length of time can attest, it becomes apparent that the people don’t rule.

They are ruled over and managed, appeased and manipulated by various interests, typically monied interests.

A primary way this is done is divide and conquer. Elites in effect end up sicking “the people” on each other on issues that are marginal to most elites. School prayer. Gay marriage, etc. What pundits sometimes call “wedge issues.”

Now, in Greece, the left wing anti-austerity Syriza party won 149 of 300 seats in the Greek parliament, just short of a majority needed to form a government. So, they teamed up with the anti-austerity right wing Independent Greeks party so together they have the majority needed.

Some may snark at this, but it’s a childish thing to do. There are certainly differences between Syriza and Independent Greeks — and they don’t seem to be pretending otherwise — but to team up with someone you disagree to achieve something you both want can be a very mature thing to do.

What they have done is a version of a voting strategy I’ve been advocating: VotePact.org. Here’s the idea: Instead of disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans continuing to back the establishments of their parties — which then becoming ever more controlled in real terms by corporate interests — that the voters pair up and back candidates and policies they truly believe in.

That seems to be what’s happening in Greece. Principled progressives there could continue voting for the pro-austerity liberals and conscientious conservatives could continue voting for establishment right wingers doing the bidding of big European banks instead of watching out for the Greek public.

The Greeks, but joining together from the left and right, have befittingly cut the Gregorian Knot that ties up voters and turns them into prisoners of the political parties that are supposed to serve them.

Now, of course a parliamentary system is different than our system. There, the politicians who are willing to buck the establishment can more easily form alliances. But in the U.S. — if the people will it enough — you can make a VotePact with your political mirror image. Instead of you being compelled to vote for an establishment Democrat and them continuing to vote for an establishment Republican they don’t really believe in, you can both vote for independent and third party candidates nearer to your heart.

As in Greece, there will obviously be disagreements, but they will be more likely to be worked out by the people, not managed and manipulated by the monied interests.

And then the people may stand a chance at ruling — and fulfilling the meaning of “Democracy.”

Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

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Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

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