"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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Sunday, June 8, 2008


An insightful commentary from the Government Technology website. - Editor

A Vote for Sensible Elections

Jun 3, 2008, By Chad Vander Veen


The other day I was going through my morning ritual of visiting certain news sites - in a certain order - to get a quick sense of what's going on in the world. One Washington Times headline, in particular, caught my attention: "Michigan primary revote chances diminish." How is it that in 2008 this nation still can't cobble together a decent, sensible system for electing people to office?

Though the race for the White House is certainly historic, it's also giving more Americans a good look at how dysfunctional our election process has become. The Democrats have gone out of their way to illustrate how cockamamie their system is. Florida, for example, moved up its primary to an earlier date, despite the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) threat to strip the state of its delegates if it did so. Florida did anyway, and now as of press time, the delegates haven't been awarded to either candidate, leading some party officials to call for a "do over."

But the DNC's problem speaks to a larger issue in American elections. Now, I'm as pro-states' rights as any person you'll meet, but it's high time this country seriously considers nationwide standards for electing candidates to national office. It doesn't matter whether it's a nationwide system of electronic voting or paper balloting - just that we design a simple process for casting a vote.

Much of this year's caucuses and primaries have proven themselves totally archaic, so too is the U.S. Electoral College. The time when representative democracy was needed has long since passed. Today direct democracy is socially, technically and logistically feasible, even with punch cards or paper ballots. Think about it this way: The Nielsen system for rating TV shows - in which viewers write down what shows they watch and send that data back to Nielsen - is outdated, inefficient and just plain sucks. But it still works better than the way we vote for president.

Now I know we don't technically live in a democracy. We live in a republic. And those who defend the Electoral College say it's the republic's way of making sure less populous states don't get left out of the process. Under a strictly popular vote system, Electoral College defenders claim large population centers, like Los Angeles and New York, would unfairly skew the state voting results in their favor. The solution, then, is to ignore state lines altogether. Let every eligible American cast a vote, then tally 'em up. The person who receives the most votes wins. Who cares about awarding states? States aren't voting, Americans are.

Sounds simple. But seeing as the DNC can't even hold a simple election for itself, your vote for president may never actually count.

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