Distrust of elites is fueling a new type of democracy

“In the regions where it is more deeply rooted — the Americas and Europe — representative democracy is in crisis,” former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso wrote in The WorldPost.

“At the core of this crisis,” he continued, “is the widening gap between people’s aspirations and the capacity of political institutions to respond to the demands of society. It is one of the ironies of our age that this deficit of trust in political institutions coexists with the rise of citizens capable of making the choices that shape their lives and influence the future of their societies.”

Sprouting in that gap is a burgeoning movement toward direct democracy in which voters bypass elected elites and make laws themselves through citizen ballot initiatives, referendums and other tools.

“Two trends — the rise of populist authoritarianism in some nations and the rise of local and direct democracy in some areas — are related,” Bruno Kaufmann and Joe Mathews write. “Frustration is growing with democratic systems at national levels, and yes, some people become more attracted to populism. But some of that frustration is channeled into positive energy — into making local democracy more democratic and direct.”