"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson


We as Americans all remember being taught when we were young about our nation's founders, the patriots who stood up to the tyranny of the crown of England, the drafters of the declaration of independence, the constitution, and the bill of rights, the documents that became the framework for a system of governance that they believed would maintain a balance of power within a truly representative government, that would preserve the basic rights and liberties of the people, let their voice be heard, and provide to them a government, as Lincoln later put it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

What we may not be so quick to recall, however, is that there was much debate between the founding fathers as to what model our system of government should follow. Those such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry on one side favored a pure and direct democracy with the legislative power vested in the very hands of the people, while others such as James Madison, John Adams and George Washington held that a representative democracy would better serve the people than a true democracy because they believed it would protect the individual liberties of the minority from the will of the majority. Alexander Hamilton even went so far as to support the creation of a monarchy. In the end, those favoring representative democracy won the day and that is the system they put in place in the hopes of creating a "more perfect union."

Now we must ask ourselves, what would the founding fathers think if they were resurrected today to see what has become of their vision? One can only assume that they would begin to search for modern day patriots to meet them once again at the liberty tree in order to plan a new struggle for freedom and self governance. Although we continue to praise and honor those who founded our nation and sought to create a truly just form of government for it, do we really stop to reflect on whether we as a nation have in fact succeeded in preserving what they fought so hard to create?

Today, in contrast to our revolutionary ancestors, we as citizens of the United States generally observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. Over the decades and centuries we have allowed the erosion of the ideals of the founding fathers and the corruption of the principles which they enshrined in those so carefully conceived documents. We have been left with essentially no real power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. We may write an occasional letter to our senator or representative that generates a form letter in response and a statistical data entry that may or may not be weighed against the influence of some powerful corporate lobby. We may be permitted to participate in a march or demonstration of thousands or even millions, something our patriots of old would have marvelled at, only to be dismissed as a 'focus group' with no bearing on policy decisions.

How then is the government held accountable to the voice of the people? Are the people meant to speak only at the polls when given a choice between a select few candidates that may be equally corrupt? No, as Jefferson and his allies rightly believed, the people should be heard much more than that.

In spite of their good intentions, the system of representative democracy that the founding fathers opted for has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

We have become so accustomed to this failed system of representative democracy that it may not occur to us that there are other alternative forms of democracy. In various places around the world participatory or direct democracy has been instituted both in concert with representative democracy, and as a replacement for it. It is a form of democracy that is designed to take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and to politically empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the concept of participatory democracy and how this grass-roots based form of governance could help bring us back in line with the principles this country was founded upon if it were allowed to take root here. In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…



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Tuesday, April 8, 2008


In the state of Vermont, citizens used the power of direct democracy in the form of initiative to express their outrage over the current abuses of power in the executive branch of the federal government. - Editor

Vt. Towns Put Bush, Cheney on Arrest List

By Jason R. Henske, AP
March 5, 2008 08:52 AM
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — Voters in two southern Vermont towns passed articles Tuesday calling for the indictment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for violating the Constitution.

More symbolic than substantive, the items sought to have police arrest Bush and Cheney if they ever visit Brattleboro or nearby Marlboro or to extradite them for prosecution elsewhere — if they're not impeached first.

In Brattleboro, the vote was 2,012 for and 1,795 against. In Marlboro, it was 43 to 25, with three abstentions.

"I hope the one thing that people take from this is 'Hey, it can be done,"' said Kurt Daims, 54, who organized the petition drive that led to the Brattleboro vote.

He said he hopes Bush and Cheney are never arrested here; he wants them impeached before that could happen.

The Marlboro item was introduced from the floor under "other business," but it isn't binding since it didn't appear on the warning for the meeting, according to Town Clerk Nora Wilson.

"It was emotional. There were heartfelt speeches on both sides," Wilson said.

Since it's non-binding, the Marlboro Select Board could act on it at a later date, but they're not required to, according to Wilson.

In Brattleboro, a steady stream of voters paraded into the Brattleboro Union High School gym to cast their ballots on a day when school board elections and Vermont's presidential primary were also on the slate.

Some saw the measure as purely symbolic.

"It really carries no weight," said Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy. "Our town attorney has no legal authority to draw up any papers to allow our police officers to do so, but the gentleman who initiated the petition, got the signatures, wanted it on the ballot to make a statement."

The vote and presidential primary came on Town Meeting Day, the day when voters in most Vermont cities and towns gather to debate and vote in an annual exercise of direct democracy.

Organizers of the indictment campaign were frustrated that the printed ballot ended up relegating the Bush-Cheney indictment article to the back side, which they said would cause some people to miss it.

The 8-by-14-inch yellow cardboard ballot listed the offices and candidates in the local election on one side, and at the bottom in block letters "Turn Ballot Over and Continue Voting."

The article read: "Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities and shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and prosecute or extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them?"

"Turn Over Ballot and Indict Bush," read a 3-by-4-foot handmade picket sign carried by Daims, who stood outside the school Tuesday.

Voters interviewed after casting ballots said they saw the article as an opportunity to express their frustration over the war in Iraq and Bush's tenure in general.

"I realize it's an extreme thing to do, and really silly in a way," said Robert George, 74, a retired photographer. "But I'm really angry about us getting involved in the war in Iraq and him (Bush) disrespecting the will of the people," he said.

Ian Kelley, 41, a local radio DJ, said he didn't vote on the article.

"It's not a good reflection on the town," he said. "Do I like either of them and would I vote for them? No. But I don't think it's cause to arrest them."

Barbara Southworth, a 66-year-old nurse, said she would've voted against it.
"I forgot to vote because it was on the flip side," she said.

The White House press office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment but promised one later Tuesday. But a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee denounced the article.

"It appears that the left-wing knows no bounds in their willingness to waste taxpayer dollars to make a futile counterproductive partisan political point," said Blair Latoff. "Town people would be much better served by elected officials who sought to solve problems rather than create them."

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