On Sunday in Berlin, Germany a party that no one had ever heard of won 8.9 percent of the votes in the state election of Berlin and with that 15 of the 149 seats in the state parliament.
The party is called the Pirate Party and, although it sounds like a joke, winning 15 seats is no laughing matter and the established parties are forced to take note.

Running their campaign on a “young and tongue-in-cheek agenda”, favoring topics like net neutrality, legalizing marijuana and advocating for transparency in government helped a grassroots campaign heavily focused on using the Internet gain momentum and rally new voters to flock to the election booth.

What that means for Berlin and if the Pirates can see any land in the next federal election is beyond me to establish from across the pond. But what I want to spend some time thinking about is what this means for the USA. This land of democracy, well that’s really Greece, but we often like to think of the US as the beacon of the new democracy in the world. A land of the free, a land of endless opportunity and possibility. And I don’t mean this snarky, I can believe in it.

But having followed politics as a curious outsider now since over 12 years I am wondering if a Pirate Party would ever have a chance in this country. And if not, why not?

Did you know that there is a Green party in this country? I know of Libertarians but not of a party. The Tea party is really only the crazy side of the Republicans, but in a German system, they actually could run on their own ticket. It would be fascinating to see, how much ground they actually have.
So, why is it that in this country, where everyone praises democracy as an important tool of checks-and-balances, that we don’t have more parties? And I mean, really don’t have any more parties?
I am not looking for historic explanations or excuses in the system. Of course there was a good reason to establish an electoral college, in the same way it once made sense to give everyone the right to bear arms and only white males where allowed to vote.
But this is the 21st century and America is struggling to grow up and get a foot on the ground in this new millennium. The Democrats are dreading in the same spot and the Republicans want us to go back to pre-civil war times.

What would it take to break and expand the system and allow for a more multi-faceted face of democracy.
Isn’t America fed up with the dumbed down, seemingly overly simplistic version of red and blue? That feeling of being left in check-mate before the game has even starters.

Challenge the system

For 15 seat in a 149 parliament, like in Berlin, to make a difference, you would need a system change. Coalitions need to be created. The two major parties in Germany have to play this game since many years already. On state and federal levels, unable to achieve full majority they have to find new coalition partners after each election. This allows the voter to make a nuanced decision, make a statement and not just throw vote away.

A different approach to campaigning

Hanging posters that read in bold blocky letters: “why am I hanging here, you don’t vote anyway” and “absentee voting, finally a tree didn’t die in vain” have a tongue-in-cheek approach that is refreshing and makes you sit up and realize that you are treated like an adult.
How many Americans have I met that, although proud of their democracy are fed up with it’s politics and have stopped voting. Would meeting their issues get them out the polls? Perhaps.
Would treating them like adults, respecting their lives, their decisions and most of their intellect bring them out the election-booth?
What would it feel like, if you would consider that your vote might actually make a difference?

That would be democracy, and it would feel great!