Madden: We Need Liberation from the Two Party System

Independent candidate for Congress Liam Madden and family, winter of 2022

by Liam Madden

Most of us do not need to be convinced that the two party system is incapable of solving our challenges. The mutual disgust with how ineffective and corrupt this system is happens to be one of the few remaining areas of agreement between the left and right. (This is an important and inspiring fact I’ll connect to our solutions later.) It beckons the saying, “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

The most obvious reason for our dissatisfaction, the reason ~⅔ of us believe the system is broken, is that our major problems continue to fester: Declining health and rising healthcare costs, lack of affordable housing, accelerating inequality, an economy based on never-ending growth and accelerating resource depletion; nevermind the truly dangerous threats like ecological devastation leading to mass refugee crises, or technologies like artificial intelligence or mass scale weapons in the wrong hands.

Another reason I think most of us are fed up – is that we see which topics the two parties always manage to agree on. Perhaps, what is an even better definition of insanity is the list of oft-unspoken agreements between the two parties, things like: Keeping the war machine well fed; keeping billionaires appeased, giving special treatment to special interests, and … especially…. Making sure nobody threatens the death grip the two parties – and their owners- have on our governmental power.

There is a path out. I will get there, but give me one more moment to remind us why it is so important that we liberate ourselves from this stranglehold on our republic, our democracy, whatever you want to call it.

First of all, the two parties don’t represent us. Most of us have significant disagreements with the party platforms of the major party we happen to align with more, and therefore vote for slightly more often. Yet those important disagreements get lost, and nuance, and the superior problem solving possible when nuance lives- is foregone.

And… the two party system drives us apart. For example, President Trump did not represent most Republicans. In most primaries, he won less than 40% of the vote of Republican primary voters (a total of 4% of the population made Trump the Republican Evil in our lesser of two evils contest). Yet, he became their only option in the general election, which accelerated the process of polarization even though most Republicans didn’t really prefer his political platform. This is a natural consequence of the two party system, it drives us toward extremes – making good problem solving nearly impossible.

Lastly, the dangers of a two party system were foreseen by the political architects of our country. George Washington said, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” John Adams also agreed, adding “a division of the republic into two great parties…is to be dreaded as the great political evil.”

So… it sucks. We know it sucks. They told us it would suck. But what do we do? The two parties have the power and they crush those who oppose them.

First, let’s go over what doesn’t work. What every politician will say is, “Yeah, we face big problems, yeah, the system is broken, just vote for my side.” What’s implied here is, this is a war, not a cooperative endeavor, and lets just dominate those who disagree with us. Help us do that, they ask. But our experience teaches us that helping one side win doesn’t work.

Then there’s the other thing we know doesn’t work, which is the naive nonsense of the two party moderate, “Vote for me, I’m in the middle and I’ll bring the sides together.” These folks might think they are so charismatic or so diplomatic that their efforts are sufficient to hold together the parting continents of a system structurally designed to polarize our politics. They are naive if that is what they think will solve this situation. So are we naive to believe them.

So what will work? First of all, the founders of our governmental structure built the foundation of this system when information traveled at the speed of horseback. It now travels at the speed of light. Maybe, just maybe, upgrading our governmental design to responsibly accommodate technology is part of the answer here.

But how can technology help improve our government? Well I’m glad I asked, so that I can go ahead and answer right now:

I call this concept an Online Democracy Forum. I can explain it pretty well in three steps.

1) Use technology to gather input from the public in near REAL TIME- not every 2-4 years where we get to choose between the lesser of two evils. -ie, Use technology to formally allow the public to inform and decide upon policy much more frequently than current election cycles. -If American Idol gets feedback the night of their show to decide who wins, we can figure out how to get ideas to make our lives better to the government faster than every 2 years.

2) Create a simple to use, yet technically sophisticated online national “Democracy Forum” (with appropriate safeguards to prevent corruption and fraud) whereby the public can submit and amend proposals for policy solutions. Policy measures that reach a certain high threshold of public support, particularly support across the ideological spectrum, are automatically put to the legislators to take meaningful action upon.

-If support is great enough, policy can bypass politicians altogether.

-Steps 1 and 2 above give the citizenry more power, but it will not necessarily help the citizenry make wiser and more compassionate policy. Just because a lot of people want something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. That is the purpose of step three.

3) Get the most out of the public’s collective wisdom by building the Democracy Forum with the same technological power that is currently highlighting, emphasizing, and circulating the most divisive and polarizing ideas in social media… Except point that technology in the opposite direction. Use the Artificial Intelligence enhanced social media algorithms to accelerate our compassion, maturity, shared understanding and other virtues that create a context where solutions can be refined and revealed that far exceed the level of support and efficacy of the solutions produced by the current system.

The way it is now, improvement on policy tends to end as soon as a majority is reached, and often, the entire problem solving process is premised on false choices between values (protecting the planet vs improving quality of life) that are not actually mutually exclusive.

-A final feature of this system is allowing people who have achieved a large amount of public trust and expertise on given issue areas (think of how different hosts on Air BNB or sellers on Amazon are given public scores on relevant criteria) to have disproportionate influence on policy in those areas.

These steps are not a comprehensive map to rebirthing democracy, but they serve as a viable starting point. An outline. They are not a replacement of Congress, or of the Constitution, they are a necessary modernization.

All of the above is how we begin Rebirthing Democracy. It is on the level of our collective institutions. But our Rebirth will be a stillbirth if we don’t concurrently use the same mindset, and embrace of technology – to radically improve our personal level tools too – our empathy, sensemaking, listening and perspective taking abilities. Democracy can only survive when there is health on the individual AND collective scale.

So, my argument is that fixing government can’t be done by picking a side and voting for the lesser of two evils, and it can’t be done by voting for moderates. It must be done by making your primary voting criteria -who is running on fixing government at a root cause level – first and foremost. This must become an explicit test for every candidate, “Do you support a direct democracy forum? Where do you stand on Rebirtihng Democracy?” If they’re an independent, so much the better.

If you’d like to see a candidate focused on bringing structural innovations to our government , innovations that actually incorporates the ideas of the public, you can support my Independent campaign for Congress. With an open race, and no incumbent, now is the ideal time to question the two party death grip on our democracy. This is a campaign, and an issue, that actually unites across political dividing lines.

I am a Marine Corps veteran who became the leader of the nation’s largest antiwar organization of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. I then became an entrepreneur who won M.I.T.’s “Solve” award for organizations innovating solutions to climate change. I am a working class child of Vermont, and I am a father and citizen concerned about our ability to solve problems together. Send me to Congress and I will continue to devote my life in service to the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

Many will argue that it is better to have a candidate with “experience.” To which I respond, do we really need more experience borne of the same mindset – won’t that experience imply these candidates will continue to rely on outdated tools that are insufficient to the scale of our problems? If you are satisfied changing the players, then you have a few good options this election. If you know in your heart that we need to change the rules of the game, you have one clear choice. Let’s rebirth democracy together.

The author is an independent candidate for Congress. He was raised in Stowe, served as a U.S. Marine, and now works for a solar power company. Learn more at

25 replies »

  1. Dear Liam Madden,

    It sounds like you don’t believe in our US Constitution and/or our other Foundational Government Documents and Principles.

    Have I misunderstood?

    • Fellow Vermonter-

      Yes, you have misunderstood, big time. I believe the Constitution is one of the most important documents in human and it totally raised the trajectory for all people for centuries. I believe in keeping the Constitution and adding supplemental ways to correct for some of its unintended deficiencies, namely that is begets a two party system controlled by unaccountable elites.

      The only way around that is to give people more power. I AM NOT SAYING – give people TOTAL power. I am saying where there is large consensus on both sides, people ought to be able to force votes or even bypass politicians. This power already exists in the form of ballot initiatives and referenda in many (if not most) states. It is just a matter of making it a federal option as well, and making it more technologically accessible.

      The fact of the matter is that the Constitution’s framers could not envision a society with the technological threats and opportunities we face. I promise you one thing, the future will belong to those who use technology most effectively. If we do nothing- then the future will belong to unaccountable authoritarian governments OR unaccountable big tech corporate oligarchs. The only alternative to those futures is for the people to embrace technology to solve problems, and that means modernizing government. It does not mean replacing the Constitution.



      • Dear Liam Madden,

        Thank you for responding. I am not surprised to hear a person of your generation who puts a high percentage of your hope in technology. The 2020 November Election showed those who choose to see, how technology can be used and manipulated by those with no moral core to get what they want. As a result, our Election System is broken and not trusted by a majority of Voters.

        You often refer to our Government System as a Democracy which it is not. There is a big difference between a Constitutional Republic and a Democracy. I disagree with your view on blaming the existence of two Major Parties for our current condition.

        Our HUGE Federal Government has become a run away train of disaster in so many respects. This is contrary to what it should be Constitutionally. I believe if our United States Constitution was valued, understood and truly adhered to, we wouldn’t be where we are.

        I hope you will take some time to read, study and see our United States Constitution for what It is as the Remarkable, Exceptional and Foundational Formula for Equal Freedom and Justice for ALL Human Beings Under the Law.

  2. Open discourse us the foundation for this unique government. The politicians who want to shut it down would not have allowed you to have such discordant ideas you talk about in your opinion piece or for me to respond as I am. I suggest you do more research on the history of open thought guaranteed by our constitution for the first time in the history of the world. Think about the unintended consequences of what you seemingly are suggesting.

    • Hi Bob, did you overlook where I said, “These steps are not a comprehensive map to rebirthing democracy, but they serve as a viable starting point. An outline. They are not a replacement of Congress, or of the Constitution, they are a necessary modernization.”

      I think the Constitution is one of the most important documents in human history. But it is not perfect, otherwise, we would not have the two party system, and its inherent vulnerability to corruption and elite control in the first place, right?

      Most states already have a version of what I’m proposing – citizen ballot initiatives and referenda. I’m just saying make that federal and make it faster and more accessible to all of us. In no way does this undermine the Constitution.

  3. In a democracy the majority of citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority…and that oppression of the majority will extend to far great number, and will be carried on with much greater fury, than can almost ever be apprehended from the dominion of a single sceptre. Under a cruel prince they have the plaudits of the people to animate their generous constancy under their sufferings; but those who are subjected to wrong under multitudes are deprived of all external consolation: they seem deserted by mankind, overpowered by a conspiracy of their whole species.

    Edmund Burke

    This man was one of the great teachers that the Founders went to for guidance and wisdom.

    It’s WHY the USA is a Republic and NOT a democracy.

    We all need to realize that.

    • What needs to be realized is; being a republic does not negate being a democracy. Believing that it does constitutes a false dichotomy. Republics can be alot of things, and usually are democracies of some stripes. I would submit to all that we are an Oligarchy, and an empire in decline.

      • Ivan Peter Peter, I’ve been reading your comments and I should ignore them but I can’t. You actually belong over at Vtgravedigger but you can’t spread your misery there because they believe in censorship, no comments so you’re here. We have been listening to the left whining for too long now. We have a republic not a democracy. A democracy is majority rule, two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for lunch. A representative republic allows for open discussion and protection for the little people, most of us. If our empire is in decline it is because of a number of things but not our constitutions fault. We were given a road map and the people have ignored it, the politicians have raped it, the media has corrupted it and the people have no idea because of leftwing indoctrination. Our constitution is the answer out of the mess we are in. Whining will get us nowhere. The empire is in decline due to mass ignorance, greed and the voters who vote for promises that never happen. And just look how great the election theft has been for America. The left has exposed itself and the correction is coming November 8, 2022. Unless you have a solution other than your misery index, no one cares what you say.

    • Hi Scott,
      One reason we are a republic and not a democracy is also that a democracy was technologically unfeasible at the time. I’m not proposing we stop being a republic, I’m saying that we should be a republic that has more modern and democratic method of solving problems. Do the 435 douche bags we send to Washington every two years really have access to all of the perspective and wisdom needed to contend with our challenges? I don’t think so. I don’t think you do either. So what’s stopping us from offering new and better methods to supplement their limited problem solving capacities?



  4. too lengthy an essay for the purpose.

    Style is cool, but goals and reults are best observed and revered

  5. We are where we are because MOST have ignored and slowly eroded our United States Constitution and Founding Principles over the past many years.

    It’s NOT about Party, it’s about our Foundational Principles and Our Supreme Constitutional Law that are not valued, appreciated and/or adhered to as the Unique and Exceptional Formula for Equal Freedom and Justice for All.

    As Benjamin Franklin said,”It’s a Republic, IF you can keep IT.”

  6. “Online Democracy Forum” ??
    Given Facebook and Twitter’s records in the last election, I’m very reluctant to believe, and, or trust high teach “answers”, and the possibilities for abuse that they foster. As proven in the 2016, and 2020 elections, they can obviously be used to manipulate, and corrupt an election as well. Whether it’s the manipulation of information, or of votes. Give me paper ballots, and in person voting, overseen by locals that know their neighbors any day. And with Town meeting every March, State and Federal elections every 2 years, I really question the desirability of an any more constant, in your face stream of politics than what we already have.

  7. What I really like about this commentary is the thinking outside of the box. It’s acknowledging the deep problems in our country’s political structure that seem to be getting deeper all the time, and offering a fresh new approach. I say that as someone who is generally very skeptical of tech fixes for everything (or anything, actually), and I really can’t make a judgement on the specifics of an Online Democracy Forum But because it offers a different way of approaching an entrenched and dysfunctional political system, it deserves to at least be acknowledged, considered, and debated. Perhaps such an online thing wouldn’t work, but debating it might come up with some variation that might work better? I applaud Liam for trying to introduce a new paradigm, a new vision that just MIGHT lead to better workings in our government. It’s hard to get new and bold messages out to the public in a way that can reach others. I give a lot of credit to Liam for his bold and unconventional thinking!

  8. At this stage of the war, it is no longer about party affiliation. The corrupted criminals in both parties need to be charged and prosecuted. The party members, who are not corrupt, need to step up and take control of their said parties and push the bad apples out. A tall order. There can be consensus and there can be resolution between left and right. Take the criminals out of the parties, prosecute them, execute the treasonous ones…that is a start to making a difference in the right direction. Less cowards, more patriots

    • Hi Melissa,
      I agree there are sociopaths and criminals in both parties who need to be held accountable. Where I would offer my distinction is that it is not just about a few bad apples. It is about a system that incentivizes and rewards and creates bad apples. We can’t make real change by changing the players, we must change the rules of the game.



  9. First, thank you for your service. 2nd, we are not a democracy, we are a Constitutional Republic. 3rd, if they can hack this…they definitely could hack that. Thanks but no thanks. Term limits would be a good place to start weeding out corruption.

    • Hi James,
      I just want to be clear that I never said we were a democracy. I understand the structure we’ve inherited is that of a constitutional republic. One reason we are a republic and not a democracy is also that a democracy was technologically unfeasible at the time. I’m not proposing we stop being a republic, I’m saying that we should be a republic that has more modern and democratic method of solving problems. Do the 435 douche bags we send to Washington every two years really have access to all of the perspective and wisdom needed to contend with our challenges? I don’t think so. I don’t think you do either. So what’s stopping us from offering new and better methods to supplement their limited problem solving capacities?



  10. Well, a good friend told me afterwards,

    “You know the only thing the two parties can agree on? They don’t want a third party”

    Or independant….or anyone messing with their little gravy train. And as so many commentators have already said, we are a Republic….

    But yes we need two parties to reform, like two irresponsible parents that are on drugs/prostitution, just generally misbehaving, doing criminal deals and getting paybacks from lobbyist and corporations, yes there is trouble here in River City.

    Every ruling government under the sun has kept their populace feared and undercontrol with “the world is going to end” for thousands of years. We are a bit more sophisticated today. But make no mistake the only thing to end are corrupt governments who don’t follow the natural and God given laws….

    Book of Kings, pretty well lays it out.

    We aren’t in control, but someone else is and he does a far better job. Sometimes you have to give people enough rope to hang themselves, Swim down stream, givem’ some more rope.

    • What makes you think that we would have any more control with a 3rd party that could be as corrupt as the other two. And suppose one third plus one vote elected the third party, that leaves 66% of the voters with a party they didn’t vote for. The answer is above. Both parties have to be cleaned up. Term limits enacted and political crimes punished. The road map is clear, the Washington political machine is dirty and needs a reconning from the public. Of, by and for the people not the so called elite professional career politicians or the deep state. The constitution is the road map.

      • Hi Dano,
        I want to clarify I am not suggesting a third party. That is a failed strategy. Even if it succeeds, it will just replace one of the two parties (as the Republican party replaced the Whigs).

        I am suggesting that the people have more influence, and the opportunity to bypass politicians, when support is great enough.

        I agree with you and whole heartedly support term limits. I would bet I’d be the only candidate this election to commit to them right now publicly, and enforce them on myself.

        But I don’t think the “Constitution is the road map.” DOn’t get me wrong, it is one of the most important documents in human history. It is sacred to me and I am in NO WAY suggesting replacing it or throwing it away. But I am suggesting that it needs some modernization. If it was perfect, we would not have the mess of a government we have. Part of the governmental DNA the constitution gave us was a two party system controlled by elites. It was not intentional, but a by-product of the winner take all districts it set up.



  11. Funny you mention Trump NOT being “favored” by the traditional (pro-war) Repubs, and funny that HE was the ONLY anti-war candidate. In 2016 he & Bernie were in sync on the war(s), the border/immigration,corporate capture, etc. and in 2020 Bernie was shoved FAR left while Trump had proven, albeit against ALL Swamp skullduggery, that HIS policies could/did work, until China & the Swamp forced a US shutdown using Bio-Warfare for a virus w/a 98.7% survival rate. The “Uniparty” HATES populism & we’re seeing REAL capture of the Repub’s by REAL America Firster’s which is angering the Uniparty to conniptions while WE bear the cost of a rigged election suffering a Demented Coprolite posing as President. The good news? Things ARE changing from the BOTTOM up, from school boards to election laws, poll watchers, & REAL, hard evidence showing (through cellphone data) prior ballot stuffing and a general awakening. 3rd Parties? Look no further that Vt.’s “Progressives”..Better to steer a “traditional” party to Populism and what benefits the PEOPLE, no?

    • Steve,
      I agree that Trump was less belligerent than any other option. He does not get enough credit for that. But my larger point was the fact that 4% of the population made him one of only two choices, and that is not very representative.



  12. So the other obvious question is, which of the two parties would this candidate caucus with. No man is an island and to have support for his vision he would need consensus from one party or the other. An independent office holder has no political power or machinery to get things done. Bernie pulled this one off by claiming he was an independent, but the moment he was elected he joined with the democrats. Then after running again as in independent he decided to be a democrat again while running for president. Guess what, he’s an independent again. Perhaps the author and candidate could expand on this problem and disclose who he really is.

    • Hi Dano,
      I’m open to feedback on this. I haven’t fully resolved this issue yet. One practical way to deal with it is, if the house is close and both sides court me, giving me (us) leverage, I would go with the party that actually gets behind the reforms I suggest. Or, alternatively, I could caucus with each party on cyclical quarterly basis. There is no contract that keeps me in either party’s corner.



  13. 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” A successful democratic republic requires virtuous people.

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