"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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Thursday, July 3, 2008


Mike Gravel works hard to promote direct democracy and make the concept common public knowledge. Fighting against mainstream media and stagnated Washington politics, his goal is revolutionary. We salute his dedication and determination to make direct democracy a household term, it is going to take a whole lot of us to get his sort of initiatives rolling. -Editor

Power to the People

Mike Gravel’s campaign for direct democracy



Mike Gravel served two terms as a U.S. Senator from Alaska from 1969 to 1981. Currently a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, he sat down with HPR to discuss what he considers to be the most important issue facing America: his National Initiative, a plan to implement a form of direct democracy through federal ballot initiatives.

HPR: You were the first person to file your candidacy for the Democratic nomination. But in the last half of 2007 you started getting excluded from debates and your campaign isn’t getting much coverage. Given this, how effective has your campaign been in promoting direct democracy?

Sen. Mike Gravel: It’s been more effective than I realized. It’s very hard; we’re talking about something that’s totally out of the box, politically. I got more press for the National Initiative in the first week of my candidacy than I had in the ten years before that. But when you’re talking about something that people are not acquainted with, you have to repeat it over and over again. Now what had happened in the campaign was that the Democrats, and then corporate America, immediately wanted to marginalize me. Not so much because of the National Initiative, because I don’t think they understand it at all, but because I took a very strong position on the war and pushed the other candidates in that direction. I told the Congress how to end the war and gave them the procedures on how to do it. That disturbed them. Then when I challenged them over the military-industrial complex and how the country has been sold out, that disturbed them.

But, after the Texas and Ohio primaries, the media has got to have some grist for the mill, which is going to give me an opportunity to get my message out, and that’s why I continue to run. After the convention, obviously I won’t have the nomination, but maybe another party would want to pick me up as their standard bearer going into the next election. There are five blind polls that I know of that show that on the issues I am far and away ahead of all the other candidates. If the American people knew who I was, with respect to the issues, I would become president.

HPR: Would you say that the National Initiative is the most important issue of your campaign?

MG: It’s not only the most important issue of my campaign, it is the most important issue in the history of the country since it’s founding. There are twenty-four states that have initiative laws where people can make laws at the state and local level. But those laws are very inadequate. It should apply in every government jurisdiction in the United States. In the twenty-four states that have this, it is controlled by representative government. I want it to be independent of representative government. And how we do that is by having the electoral trust created, which will administer the procedures on behalf of the people.

HPR: So you see the National Initiative as being a fourth branch of the government, providing checks and balances?

MG: Very much so. In fact, it becomes the fourth check. And that’s very significant, because if you have one party controlling all three branches of government, you have no checks. And keep in mind, under our system, which has been so corrupted, the two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, which are not mentioned in the Constitution, are more powerful than the executive, the judicial, and the legislative branches. It’s a monopoly. And how do you break that monopoly? You can’t. Not within the context of representative government. That’s why I decided to go around the government and enact this law to allow the people to become lawmakers.

HPR: How do you get the necessary political power to pass these measures?

MG: By turning around and having a private non-profit corporation conduct a national election, and getting sixty-million Americans to vote for it. When this happens it will become the law of the land. The founding fathers all agreed that the people were sovereign and the first amendment gives the people the right to express their opinion and petition the government. What is an election but this?

For more information regarding the National Initiative and Sen. Mike Gravel, see his site: http://www.gravel2008.us/

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