From Jeffords to Democracy?

Ever heard of the National Initiative for Direct Democracy? I just got word about it last week, even though the idea is the brainchild of two nonprofit corporations established in 1992 by Mike Gravel, the former Democratic senator from Alaska.

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me share with you what I found at the nation’s premier public opinion data clearinghouse – the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

In July 1988, an ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted putting forward the statement: "Large corporations have too much power for the good of the country." Respondents were asked if they agreed with that statement, disagreed or had no opinion.

A whopping 71 percent said they agreed, while 24 percent disagreed and five percent said they had no opinion. In 1992, 1996 and 2000, the same poll was conducted. The results were almost exactly the same.

A 1994 Harris poll about the people’s perception of power put forward this question: "Do you think big companies have too much or too little influence on Washington?"

That survey found 86 percent of Americans think big companies have an undue influence on the famed "Washington consensus." Only 9 percent of the respondents said that big companies have too little influence. In March 2000, the same question was posed and the numbers changed only slightly, as you might expect.

This is amazing! In a society where business propaganda is beat into its citizens’ heads every single day; in a nation where big corporations monopolize the media that most Americans say they rely on to form their public policy opinions, you would expect those polls to tell a different story.

Stupid question: If we live in a democracy where "the people" rule, how is it that, with a majority of Americans – for at least a decade – believing that corporations have too much influence on the American political process, there has not been a legislative movement to devolve centralized corporate power, which has surpassed the power and influence of most of the world’s nation-states?

Why has the "free press" responded with dumbfound disdain at protest movements across the globe calling for corporate accountability to the people? Why haven’t lawyers all across America spoke out in a collective voice at the absurdity that corporations have the same individual rights as flesh-and-blood human beings and have evoked the 14th Amendment in their defense far more times than the very people for whom the 14th Amendment was originally created?

Such questions get put on the back burner so that we can focus on the dialogue that our pundits and politicians want us to have, like O.J. Simpson giving Robert Blake unsolicited advice about how to conduct himself in the face of charges that he killed his wife, or whether Jim Jeffords’ defection from the GOP was a principled or traitorous move.

So back to the National Initiative for Direct Democracy. It’s a legislative proposal to be enacted by the People in a national election conducted by "Philadelphia II." The National Initiative is comprised of the Direct Democracy Constitutional Amendment (DDCA), which asserts "the People’s First Principles – that is – their sovereign authority and legislative power to create and alter governments, constitutions and laws;" and the Direct Democracy Act (DDA), which would establish procedures so the People can enact laws by initiatives, according to the Initiative’s executive summary. (Check out for more info).

The DDA also creates the Electoral Trust to administer those procedures on behalf on the People, independent of government officials.

"The National Initiative will institutionalize direct democracy and will, in essence, establish a legislature of the People in every government jurisdiction of the United States. The National Initiative does not alter representative government, but it does create a working partnership of the People acting as lawmakers with their elected representative lawmakers," the summary explains.

"In 1787, ratification of our Constitution required an affirmative vote of nine state conventions. The People’s election conducted by Philadelphia II, to enact the National Initiative, will in a more democratic manner require a number of affirmative votes greater than 50 percent of those voting in the most recent presidential election, i.e., more than 50 million votes… ."

An e-mail friend of mine asked me last week: "Should we who love freedom and self-governance support this effort? Or is this just a crazy fantasy?"

I don’t know the answers to those important questions. I do know that a society without chattel slavery was once considered a "crazy fantasy," as was the notion of representative democratic government.

I sure wouldn’t put too much stock in the Jeffords defection.