Barriers to Change

by Senator Mike Gravel, May 13, 2003

A Loss of Faith
The most disturbing aspect of our contemporary American constitutional system is the emergence of a significant number of citizens who are profoundly alienated from politics and government and feel powerless to affect public policy. Americans know their government does not govern fairly and that elections are not conducted fairly. The consequent loss of faith in government leads to diminished respect for the law, which leads to disobedience of the law, threatening what holds a free society together –– voluntary obedience to law. This growing magnitude of distrust places our entire constitutional system at risk. When political representatives and appointed officials are faced with decisions of public interest, they first look to how those decisions will impact their personal self-interest, and then the special interests of supporters who help finance their campaigns for and maintain them in office, and then their political party’s competitive advantage. Human nature, without regard to right or wrong, dictates the primacy of one’s personal interest. This focus on self-interest rather than on the public interest is the root cause of government’s unfairness and the illicit conduct of its elections. Since the people cannot surmount the primacy of personal interests, we are forced to look for solutions in the inanimate structure of government, rather than from the human actors. The design of our government’s structure is defined in the Constitution. Without demeaning that great document and the progress it has permitted us to make, it is fair to say that the original design of government was subject to the same forces of human nature that cripples modern-day government’s ability to function fairly. Efforts to get government officialdom to correct the structure of government are exercises in futility. The price of breaking the deadlock in Philadelphia in 1787 that brought about agreement on a Constitution was the acceptance of undemocratic concessions written into the Constitution to protect and perpetuate the institution of slavery. Those concessions that purchased our Constitution still govern us to this day and make reform impossible. We will never know if such concessions to ‘states rights’ as the following had to be made to secure a Constitution. 1. A slave was valued at three-fifths of a person in determining the number of representatives a state could send to Congress up to the Civil War. 2. The Electoral College continues to enshrine the gross inequality of a citizen’s vote for president (in some cases by a factor as much as four times that of another voter). 3. The Senate, even with the improvement of direct elections that had taken more than a hundred years to bring about, still perpetuates the unfairness of representation, resulting in gross distortions to the equality of services to citizens. 4. The government’s ability to amend the Constitution in Article V continues to guarantee that a minority of one-fourth of the state legislatures can veto any amendment put up by a super majority in Congress or demanded by a majority of public opinion, making significant reform all but impossible. 5. Article I, Section 4 grants each state full control of the voting franchise, which continues to institutionalize the venal corruption and unfairness of elections.

The most destructive concession to representative government, though not generally viewed as such, is the continued control of the voting franchise by state and local governments. Throughout our history, we have never enjoyed a fair voting process under the patchwork of registration and voting procedures at the local levels of government. The second most destructive of these concessions is the undemocratic nature of the Constitution’s Article V amending process, the historic effect of which has been to excessively empower the executive and judiciary branches of government. These two branches, representing two-thirds of our system of Checks and Balances, are the easiest branches to control by minority elites. The major constitutional advancement over the last two hundred years has been the expansion of the voting franchise to all eligible persons. Gaining the franchise has yet to bring fairness to the voting process in election after election across the country. This undemocratic practice is knowingly kept in place by Congress, even after the enactment of the Help America Vote Act in response to the Florida’s electoral debacle in 2000, which is only the tip of the iceberg of national electoral abuse. The majority of the people do not vote because they think their votes do not matter –– that their votes are insufficient to reform an unfair government. We do not know if it was necessary to make the undemocratic concessions in 1787; however, we do know with hindsight that these constitutional concessions blocked any chance of making any number of critical evolutionary changes to government. They blocked any chance at a peaceful, evolutionary settlement of the slavery issue, thereby making the Civil War inevitable. Will these undemocratic concessions in the Constitution that continue to perpetuate the unfairness of government practices make the decline and loss of our American constitutional system inevitable? Loss of faith in government must be taken seriously. Potentially, it can destroy the gains Americans have made in self-government over the last two hundred years. Up to now, geography dismembered human society into autonomous local, regional and national communities. Science and technology have now loosened the bonds of those autonomous communities. Modern, complex demands outpace a government designed for a simpler time –– 18th century society. Since undemocratic features in the Constitution forestall reform, the people must look outside government to fashion new structures. Our failure to develop institutions to fairly mediate the people’s influence on public policy condemns our society to an accelerating decline, where technologically empowered organizations will be better able to impose their special interests on people amid the complexities of ever growing social, political and economic problems as we advance into the 21st century.

The Solution
What better way is there to reverse citizen alienation of government than to bring citizens into the operation of governments as lawmakers? This solution will require people to shoulder some responsibility for governance, an experience the attendant benefits of which they have been denied by the structure of representative government. Our present constitutional structure of representative government has in effect held people in civic adolescence. Taking responsibility for one’s acts is how we mature as human beings. Certainly, people being able to legislate public policy and thereby take responsibility for their decisions will not only bring about greater voter participation but also a major gain in the overall civic maturity of society. We can anticipate the success of this suggestion by looking at the Swiss and U.S. experiences. Bringing the people into the operation of government as lawmakers has taken Switzerland from

being one of Europe’s poorest nations in 1848 to the wealthiest and most successfully governed nation in the world today. In the U.S., twenty-four states enacted Initiative, Referendum and Recall (IRR) laws in response to the corruption of representative government. People using the initiative have produced a legislative record over the last one hundred years as good as or better than that of representative government. However, these laws left control of the initiative process in the hands of representative governments, which have attempted to thwart their effective use by the people ever since. Additionally, these laws were and still are crippled by not having deliberative legislative procedures, something commonplace to all legislative bodies. These flaws in initiative laws, though correctable, left the people’s lawmaking process hostage to the same corruption of money that existed in the politics of representative government. The tempering effect on the excesses of representative government by initiative laws at the state level foretells the success we can expect at the federal level and in every government jurisdiction of the United States. The proposed law –– the National Initiative for Democracy –– includes uniform legislative procedures for all levels of government and an agency to implement those procedures independent of representative government. This same agency will conduct all initiative elections from a central database with the newest technologies. The National Initiative herein suggested has been designed and vetted with scholars and experts over the last decade. It corrects the shortcomings found in state initiative laws, and it removes the corrupting influence of money in initiative elections. The legislative procedures written into the National Initiative are similar to those found in the Congress today. The National Initiative is a legislative package that includes an amendment to the Constitution –– the Democracy Amendment –– and a federal statute –– the Democracy Act. The Democracy Amendment: 1) asserts the sovereignty of the People to make laws; 2) outlaws monies in initiative elections not from natural persons; and 3) legalizes the self-enactment process of the Philadelphia II election. The Democracy Act sets up legislative procedures and creates an administrative agency (the Electoral Trust) to implement those procedures and conduct initiative elections on behalf of the American People.

The National Initiative’s Enactment
The designing and vetting the National Initiative is only one part of the equation. It now has to be enacted into law. It is self-evident that the Congress will not dilute its own powers in order to empower the people. That being the case, a national election must be conducted by a nongovernment entity on behalf of the people. This unconventional approach to circumvent the government has historic and legal precedent. The Founding Fathers faced the same national disintegration of government under the Articles of Confederation during the first half of the 1780s. The government was powerless because each of the thirteen state governments refused to cede their “sovereign state rights.” The Constitutional Framers overcame this inertia with a plan to take the ratification process directly to the people under the doctrine of First Principles (the people just do it –– there is no external authority to the people). James Madison persuaded the Congress sitting in New York to send the Constitutional Draft to the various states asking them to convene special state conventions, with delegates elected by the people to decide on ratification. The states, thinking ratification unlikely, agreed early on to Madison’s plan. The self-enacting text of Article VII of the Constitution, triggered by ratification, created our nation. Article VII relied on a threshold decision of nine state conventions to ratify the Constitution, thereby making it the law of the land in those nine states.

Following this precedent of history and operating under the legality of the self-enacting feature of Article VII, the National Initiative is now presented to American voters in a national election conducted by Philadelphia II, a nonprofit corporation incorporated in 1992 in California. This national election began on September 17, 2002 and will continue until the self-enacting threshold (the necessary number of registered voters voting for the National Initiative) written into the Democracy Amendment is met. This threshold is far superior to that of 1787, in that modern communications technology readily permits people to make their own decisions rather than rely on the intermediary of elected delegates to conventions. The National Initiative’s self-enactment threshold is in Section 8 of the Democracy Amendment: This Article of Amendment and the accompanying Democracy Act shall be inoperative unless, in a national election conducted by the nonprofit corporation Philadelphia II, the Amendment shall have been ratified and the Act enacted by the affirmative vote of a number of registered voters greater than half the total number of votes cast in the presidential election occurring immediately prior to the election's certification by the President of Philadelphia II to the government of the United States, provided that the number of affirmative votes exceeds the number of negative votes received by Philadelphia II at that time. Any voter may change his or her vote at any time prior to the date of certification.

Our Goals
In order to bring about the enactment of the National Initiative and thereby create new governing institution –– The Legislature of the People –– The Democracy Foundation’s goals are to: 1. Raise sufficient funds to command the resources necessary for an educational campaign to acquaint the American public with the National Initiative for Democracy and the opportunity its enactment offers for people to empower themselves as lawmakers in every government jurisdiction of the United States; and 2. Secure a sufficient number of votes in the Philadelphia II election to meet the selfenacting threshold established in Section 8 of the Democracy Amendment. These goals may seem difficult to attain, and they are. There is no tax base to fund this electoral undertaking outside government, the cost of which will equal that of a presidential campaign. An article of faith in this undertaking is the belief that a sufficient number ordinary people voting for the National Initiative will back up their votes with modest contributions to finance their own empowerment. That voters will back up their votes with modest donations is realistic. First, if only one percent of the more than 50 million affirmative voters required to enact the National Initiative were to give to the Sustaining Democracy Program an average five dollars per month, the enactment would be adequately funded and completed in three to five years. Second, national polls consistently show that Americans want to be empowered. A statewide poll in Minnesota in the spring of 2002 showed that citizens wanted to be empowered to make laws by 82%. The Democracy Foundation’s recent experience in Maine showed that of those who voted, 80% voted for the National Initiative. The conclusion of these experiences indicates that if the people can be made aware of the National Initiative, they will overwhelmingly vote for it. The technological communication advancement of the Internet makes possible the necessary communications to acquaint Americans with the National Initiative and to provide them an opportunity to vote, thereby enacting the National Initiative without the participation of government.

We believe that when we reach a critical mass of people voting for the National Initiative, its enactment will become the most explosive issue on the American political scene since the founding of the nation. We do not know how many votes it will take to arrive at critical mass; it could be one million or five million. However, we feel that by using the Internet for voting and communicating we can build to a critical mass. If we are joined by individuals and organizations intent on reform the process will accelerate appreciably. The enactment of the National Initiative will reverse the downward spiral in civic and social participation by the people. ___________________