While many people are distressed by the combative nature of democratic politics, they are unlikely to understand that the responsibility for improving the political system lies with the people and not the politicians.

In a democratic government, parties are formed to help focus the electorate on a small number of choices. From the point of view of the parties, the objective is winning elections.

The party or parties in power will always claim that government is doing well, while the party or parties in opposition will claim the contrary. All parties will try to perpetuate the myth that those who voted for the winning party are themselves winners, and that they will be better off than if another party had won. Party leaders will insist that democracy means "majority rule," whereas democracy really means "people power", in other words, governing in a way to benefit all, which of course entails compromises instead of confrontation.

The purpose of democracy is good government for all, not just those who voted for the winning party.

Parties are generally successful at transferring their partisanship to the voters, which makes the voters themselves merely the pawns of the politicians. As soon as a voter starts believing that another voter is an enemy merely because the other voter casts a different ballot, that voter's mind has been captured by the politicians and their parties.

Seldom will partisan candidates talk of political reform, and rarely will such reform be enacted, because parties like to spread the idea of elections as competition instead of cooperation.

In a democracy, the responsibility for political reform lies directly on the shoulders of the electorate.

It is the voters who must devise the rules for elections so that a variety of points of view are represented in the government, corresponding to the variety of points of view felt by the electorate. In a democracy, voters have the power to form interest groups, splinter groups, even new parties to challenge those who hold power. In a democracy, voters have the right to demand a government that serves the needs of the people, and not just the politicians. In a constitutional democracy, voters can and must propose changes to the constitution when needed.

As long as voters can be led into fighting one another instead of the political system, democracy will be less than fully effective as a form of government.

When voters understand that they must demand that government make compromises for the benefit of all, rather than adopt the agenda for the current crop of political winners, then those voters can retake political power away from the parties, away from the politicians, and back to the people, which is where power belongs in a democracy.

It's our responsibility.