"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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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


As early as last May, Barack Obama began setting the tone for more citizen participation in the electoral process, and more transparency and openness. He wrote a letter to Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Commission requesting that copyrights be waived on all video of presidential debates immediately after they were aired so that the material could be freely distrubuted by bloggers and all of the general public in order to make the debates reach the maximum audience possible within the electorate, recognizing the importance of an educated and informed electorate to the democratic process. See also our previous post which highlights the specifics of Obama's platform and how they will bring about radical changes in governance the implementation of participatory and direct democratic systems at the federal level. (Click here) - Editor

Obama Asks Dean to Drop Restrictions on Debates

Source: Washington Post May 03, 2007

By Ed O'Keefe

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is joining with top bloggers and technology leaders in asking the Democratic National Committee to make all video of Democratic presidential debates available for free after they air.

In a letter sent to DNC chairman Howard Dean earlier today, Obama suggests debate video should be placed in the public domain, or licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license. Such licenses allow authors, musicians, producers, scientists, etc. to pick and choose the copyright freedoms to apply to their work.

"As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content," Obama's letter states. "We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation."

The senator references a letter sent to Dean and the DNC by "a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists." That letter was signed by, among others, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Markos Moulitsas, founder of liberal blog Daily Kos; Lowell Feld, who ran online campaign activities for Sen. Jim Webb's successful 2006 Senate campaign; and John Amato, the founder of Web site Crooks and Liars. It calls for "the DNC to ensure that all video footage from Democratic debates is able to be shared, re-used, and freely blogged about without the uploader of the video being deemed a lawbreaker."

A similar letter sent to the Republican National Committee was also signed by Newmark, Wales, Huffington, among others.
Read the letters to the RNC and DNC here.

"Barack Obama is a strong believer in using technology to make the political process, and the important debates on issues as open and accessible to the American public as possible," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "In the spirit of openness, Obama wanted to make sure the debates are accessible to everybody."

Psaki wouldn't say if Obama would skip future DNC debates if his video distribution idea is not adopted. He's scheduled to attend a debate hosted by PBS host Tavis Smiley in late June at Howard University, an early June debate in New Hampshire co-sponsored by CNN and WMUR-TV, and six DNC sanctioned debates set to begin in July.

Here's the full text of Obama's letter to Dean:

Chairman Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. S
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-8000
Dear Chairman Dean:

I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.

The letter does not propose some radical change in copyright law, or an unjustified expansion in "fair use." Instead, it simply asks that any purported copyright owner of video from the debates waive that copyright.

I am a strong believer in the importance of copyright, especially in a digital age. But there is no reason that this particular class of content needs the protection. We have incentive enough to debate. The networks have incentive enough to broadcast those debates. Rather than restricting the product of those debates, we should instead make sure that our democracy and citizens have the chance to benefit from them in all the ways that technology makes possible.

Your presidential campaign used the Internet to break new ground in citizen political participation. I would urge you to take the lead again by continuing to support this important medium of political speech. And I offer whatever help I can to secure the support of others as well.
Sincerely,Barack Obama

Click here to read the blog post at the Washington Post

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