Direct Democracy

On April 4, 1967, exactly a year before he was assassinated, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King summed up what many feel provoked the September 11 attacks: “the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet -my own government.”

But we should not feel guilty! The government’s militarism does not represent the people! From Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”, pages 545 and 558: “By 1975, public opinion polls showed that ’65 percent of Americans oppose military aid abroad because they feel it allows dictatorships to maintain control over their population.'” But Congress has given military aid to the Afghans since 1980 and as recently as May of this year sent the Taliban $43 million to “fight drugs.”

The 1975 polls quantify what President Eisenhower stated: “The people want peace; indeed, I believe they want peace so badly that the governments will just have to step aside and let them have it.” The government’s military policies are in the control of the weapons manufacturers, the biggest business on earth according to the UN Research Institute. They can buy the most congressmen, who then vote to keep them number one. Eisenhower warned, in his farewell address to the nation: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

The week following the 9/11 events the stock market suffered its worst decline since 1940, but if you owned stock in weapons manufacturers you’d have made a killing: the seven top gaining stocks (by percentage and by points) that week were all military (details on request).

There is a serious and comprehensive proposal to rectify this and other failures of the government to represent us. It was developed by one of the key people who brought peace in Vietnam. U.S. Senator Mike Gravel in 1971 single-handedly filibustered the Senate until they agreed to end the draft after 2 more years. At great personal and professional risk, he officially released the Pentagon Papers which exposed the lies and duplicity bulwarking our Vietnam policy. He was the first to oppose nuclear power. His organization Philadelphia II is preparing an amendment to the Constitution to permit We the People to propose and vote for the laws we want, in parallel to existing legislative bodies. Then we can vote to change the government’s wicked military policies which arm our enemies and make us all the target of the oxymoronic “holy war.”

This is not going to be “instant democracy” or even the “fast-track” which the President wants from Congress for trade issues. Our proposal includes extensive hearings, deliberations by randomly-selected “citizen juries” and public information. Claims by Washington Post uber-pundit David Broder that the initiative process in 24 US States is in the pockets of big money are largely false. The only academic studies of this show quite the opposite. See http://Vote.org/gerber. Most problems with initiatives are caused by the limitations imposed by the legislatures, which our proposal addresses.

We’re not going to beg Congress for this amendment making them share power with us! (Gravel and others tried that in 1977, to no avail.) We’re going to put the Democracy Amendment in the Constitution the way We the People originally ratified the Constitution -ourselves. This is called First Principles, known to few besides constitutional lawyers. We are convening a symposium to address this and other matters on February 16-18 in historic Williamsburg, Virginia. All details are on our web site at http://ni4d.org.

There are many other reasons for us sharing law-making power with politicians. This way we learn responsibility instead of being treated like children –abused children. It gives us an incentive to educate ourselves. It gives politicians some competition and incentive to do better. 100 years of state initiatives show an excellent track record of legislation; much was later adopted by Congress (see http://Vote.org). The 9/11 attacks give us a new reason: If the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania had hit the US Capitol as the hijackers apparently planned, the US would now be without a legislative branch of government. The “Legislature of the People” we propose would be everywhere, impossible to target.

Don’t hate the government, become the government!

Evan Ravitz is an advisor to Philadelphia II and spearheaded Boulder’s 1993 Voting by Phone ballot initiative. You can reach him at evan@vote.org

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