"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, August 13, 2008


This is a perfect example of an issue we have continuously opposed and sought to expose. Direct democracy is a tool to be used equally by all people, not just a handful of elite who wish to dominate the political scene. When people are ambivalent or unaware of the power they have to change their community, city, or state, they leave themselves vulnerable to those who have the funding to usurp that power for their own special interests. This article reveals the situation in Oregon where the people are going to have to fight back against the oligarchs who believe democracy is under their control.

Also see the following website to see the various initiative and referendum efforts made in Oregon:


Checkbook Democracy

Process meant to empower citizens is used by a few

Published: July 9, 2008 12:00AM

Source: http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/dt.cms.support.viewStory.cls?cid=123494&sid=5&fid=1

Oregon’s initiative process, the capstone of an era of progressive politics at the dawn of the 20th century, was meant to be an instrument of direct democracy. Yet in modern practice, the initiative looks more like the tool of an oligarchy.

Of the 10 initiatives likely to appear on the November ballot, nine are the work of three men. Eight of those had the financial support of just one person, and he gave more to this year’s signature gathering campaigns than all others combined.

All three initiative promoters are familiar: Bill Sizemore, the former candidate for governor and a prolific sponsor of previous anti-union and anti-tax proposals; Russ Walker, the Northwest director of FreedomWorks, a small-government organization founded by former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey; and Kevin Mannix, the former legislator and candidate for governor and Congress who led the campaign for Measure 11, the 1994 initiative that imposed mandatory prison sentences for certain crimes.

Many of the trio’s proposals for 2008 are as familiar as the men behind them. Sizemore has a proposal to tie teachers’ pay to classroom performance and a measure to limit the use of union dues for political purposes. Sizemore and Walker teamed up on a proposal to make federal income taxes fully deductible for state income tax purposes. Mannix wants mandatory minimum prison terms for certain property crimes. These are all variations of initiatives Oregonians have voted on, and mostly rejected, in the past.

Other proposals are new.

Sizemore is sponsoring an initiative that would limit bilingual education in public schools, and another that would eliminate building permit requirements for projects costing $35,000 or less. Walker has a couple of proposals aimed at trial lawyers — one to cap contingency fees, another to allow punishments for frivolous lawsuits. Mannix proposes dedicating 15 percent of lottery proceeds to law enforcement.

All of these proposals are taken from the conservative shelves in the marketplace of ideas. That’s because Loren Parks, a businessman who divides his time between Oregon and Nevada and long has bankrolled conservative initiative campaigns, donated $1.1 million to finance the three activists’ signature gathering efforts. Parks bypassed the building permits measure, but provided half or more of the money behind the eight others.

The conservative flavor of this year’s measures stems in part from the fact that Democrats control state government, leaving the initiative as the only avenue by which conservative ideas can be advanced. Dan Meek, a progressive activist and lawyer in Portland, also has a point when he complains that tighter restrictions on signature gathering have made initiative campaigns harder for grass-roots organizations.

But the most common denominator is money — and more than ever before, money from a single source. Oregon’s initiative process has become an exercise in checkbook democracy.

Copyright © 2008 — The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA


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