Oregon’s public initiative plan should spur federal model

Over the last 11 months, CNN/Opinion Research Polls have found that more than 60 percent of adults nationwide oppose the war in Iraq. Yet, the war continues. This is an overt instance of the government ignoring majority opinion. Since 2001, more than 55 percent of adults nationwide have favored the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Yet, the Kyoto Protocol remains un-ratified at the federal level.

Sadly, it is not difficult to find many instances of the federal government ignoring majority opinion.

I believe the logjam in our obstinate federal bureaucracy can be broken by enacting the National Initiative for Democracy. Just as Oregon and 23 other states have an initiative system whereby the people can enact legislation by direct vote, the National Initiative proposal would provide deliberative procedures for direct lawmaking at the federal level. Under the National Initiative, if the majority decides to leave Iraq then we leave Iraq. If the majority decides to ratify the Kyoto Protocol then it shall be ratified. Direct democracy at the federal level is not a new idea. Switzerland has had it since 1874.

If the National Initiative is such a great idea then how come it hasn’t been enacted? Congress will never enact it because it dilutes congressional power. Seemingly, the only way is to enact it by direct vote. In the same way that the U. S. Constitution was established by "We the People," we the people may amend the Constitution by majority vote. One may object that the American people lack the competence for and interest in self-governance. However, I believe that our distaste for politics is due to the recognition that, at present, we are virtually powerless at the federal level. Our exercise of power is limited to electing a representative, and then we may suffer for the next two, four or six years until we can vote him or her out of office.

The National Initiative does not replace Congress. The National Initiative is complementary; it would become another check and balance on our federal government. Just like Congressional lawmaking, laws passed by the National Initiative would be subject to Supreme Court oversight.

The National Initiative was drafted by former Alaskan Sen. Mike Gravel, based on work by the People’s Lobby, and refined in the Democracy Symposium in 2002. In order to draw attention to the National Initiative proposal, Mike Gravel ran as a Democratic presidential nominee and more recently as a Libertarian nominee. He was eliminated in round four at the Libertarian convention in Denver over Memorial Day weekend.

However, the National Initiative can be enacted regardless of who our elected representatives are. If we had the National Initiative then we would not have to wait for the next election cycle to hope for change in our federal policy. Instead of candidates running on the promise of "change," they could run on the promise of oversight. The People must become the senior sovereign of our government. Until that is the case, we are continually vulnerable to exploitation by the elite minority. Vote for yourself.