"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…



WashingtonOregonCaliforniaAlaskaHawaiiIdahoNevadaArizonaMontanaWyomingUtahColoradoNew MexicoNorth DakotaSouth DakotaNebraskaKansasOklahomaTexasMinnesotaIowaMissouriArkansasLouisianaWisconsinIllinoisIndianaMichiganOhioMississippiAlabamaGeorgiaSouth CarolinaNorth CarolinaFloridaTennesseeKentuckyVirginia West VirginiaPennsylvaniaNew YorkMaineVermontNew HampshireRhode IslandConnecticutNew JerseyDelawareDistrict of ColumbiaMassachusetts

Friday, November 14, 2008


A ballot initiative in Arizona that would have severely limited and possibly eliminated the initiative & referendum in that state was soundly defeated at the voting booths on Nov. 4th. The twisted and anti-democratic logic of the inititiative was rejected by an enlightened electorate. A prime example of direct democracy at it's best. - Editor

The Voters of Arizona Defeat Prop 105

November 5, 2008

Arizona’s Voters Reject Prop 105; the So-called ‘Majority Rules’ Amendment
Coalition of more than 125 Organizations Credits Revealing the Truth
and Hard Work as Reason for Defeating Misleading Proposition

The latest ballot count shows that voters have rejected Prop 105 marking a significant victory for Arizonans, all of whom will retain their most precious right – the right to vote. The tally shows Prop 105, the so-called “Majority Rules” amendment, losing by a 66 to 34 percent margin.

“I am proud to have been a part of a coalition that stood up for the voting rights of all Arizonans,” said John Wright, chair The Voters of Arizona-No on prop 105 campaign committee. “It is just plain wrong to count people who don’t vote, and the voters of Arizona agreed that Prop 105 was a misleading initiative that should not be included in the constitution.”

If Prop 105 had passed, more than 80 percent of those voting on a ballot initiative would have had to vote yes for it to pass, effectively killing the initiative process in Arizona, which is the closest thing we have to a direct democracy. If Prop 105 were already in place, a number of initiatives that overwhelmingly passed—including the statewide smoking ban, First Things First, Smarter Growth, almost every initiative since 1974—would not have passed under Prop 105.

A coalition of nearly 125 organizations across the state provided the foundation for a strong grassroots effort. The entire campaign included website development; earned media efforts; statewide direct mail and signage; and creative development, production, and placement of the TV commercial. The campaign took nothing to chance in what was arguably the most deceptive ballot initiative in the state’s history.

“From a campaign strategy perspective, their initiative was a classic ‘bait and switch’ strategy, using a ‘majority rules’ message as a cover,” said Joe Yuhas, partner with RIESTER, the campaigns consultant. “We didn’t allow a misleading message to stand in the way of educating voters about what Prop 105 was really about, counting people who don’t actually vote as automatic no votes. This landslide of Arizonans voting No on prop 105 proves that they want to keep and protect their constitutional right to the initiative process.”

Support for the Voters of Arizona-No on Prop 105 was wide spread including prominent elected officials including Mayors Bob Walkup of Tucson, Karen Fann of Chino Valley, and Mark Nexsem of Lake Havasu City. The business community also joined via support from 10 Chambers of Commerce statewide as well as the Associated General Contractors Arizona Chapter. The Voters of Arizona received a variety of new endorsements weekly, including public safety organizations such as the Professional Firefighters of Arizona, United Phoenix Firefighters and Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs; education advocacy groups including Arizona Education Association and Arizona School Boards Association; senior groups including the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans; and the medical community including Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and the American Lung Association. By the end of the campaign, all major news outlets that weighed in on the issue were against Prop 105 including The Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune, Tucson Citizen, Tucson Weekly, and The Yuma Sun.

1 comment:

Evan Ravitz said...

We in Colorado just defeated Referendum O, which would have made Constitutional initiatives much harder for regular people, but just a minor inconvenience for the rich.

Ref. O would have given each Congressional District an effective veto by requiring 8% of signatures from each. Ref O was devious (or poorly drafted) enough that as the State grows and Districts are added, that 8% requirement would have "racheted up" the total signature requirements: When we get to 13 districts, that would be 13 X 8=104% of the base requirement, and would grow from there.

We collect most signatures in the Front Range cities because it's much harder to collect in sparse rural areas.

The Legislature which tried to foist this on us ignored the recommendations of the U. of Denver's Colorado Constitution Panel. O violated recommendations 4, 7 & 8. See http://www.du.edu/issues/reports/2007SIPReport.pdf They also ignored what was said at CU Law School's Conference on initiatives, held at the Capitol for their convenience!

Solutions to initiative problems have been generally agreed on and available for many decades. But legislators NEVER improve the process, only make it harder and hobbling it in various ways.

Voters on ballot initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for such deliberative process is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel: http://Vote.org. Also http://healthydemocracyoregon.org/ and http://cirwa.org

In Switzerland, petitions are left at government offices and stores for people to read and sign at leisure, so there are less aggressive petitioners, more informed signers, and less $ required. The Swiss vote on initiatives 3-7 times a year so there's never too many on one ballot. Because they have real power, the Swiss read more newspapers/capita than anyone else.

In Switzerland, representatives are humbler and more representative after centuries of local and cantonal (state) ballot initiatives, and national initiatives since 1891. They call their system "co-determination." This works for all relationships!