U.S. should become direct democracy

Is it time for America to become a true democracy? Government by representation is failing the American people.

Our representatives are not listening to the people they represent. If you write your representative, you receive no reply or a generic reply written by an aide with no content.

If we eliminate our representatives, Americans can save billions of dollars, if not trillions, that are being spent on private jets, pork barrel projects and special interest deals.

We are living in a different age; we no longer have to send a representative by horseback to represent the village. That village now has access to all the information to make a well informed decision! This is the age of technology, computers, and e-mail. It is time for Americans to govern their country. A government that has minimal representation and a figurehead government will be a true democracy.

Ray R. Mehrer


Mr. Mehrer,

I believe you are correct, despite some misgivings by a few of your readers. As a matter of fact,constitutional experts also agree with you and have sighted our country’s founding fathers and our own Constitution as supportive of a deliberative form of direct democracy. Allow me to explain (and respectfully correct) the detractors of direct democracy.

There appear to be two leading misconceptions why many Americans distrust direct democracy; both of which are almost completely without merit or factual basis. Let’s explore miconception #1: The founding fathers’ felt a representative form of government should always be the only form of government (Republic). This could not be further from the truth and evidence clearly suggests the opposite. The founding fathers had no other choice but to choose a representative government because technology did not exist in 18th century America for all citizens to express their ideas and opinions regularly over great distances at that time.

As you’ve stated, Mr. Mehrer, times and technologies have advanced. Constitutional expert, Alan Hirch wrote: "In sum the Framers’ choice of representative democracy at the federal level should not be wrenched from context. That choice derived from a commitment to a deliberative ideal that could not be achieved at the founding because of conditions that have subsequently changed"- a clear reference to a representative form of government being chosen because no technological alternative existed at the time our Constitution was written then ratified.

Hirsch goes on to say: "Based on all of the available evidence, Article IV’s guarantee of a ‘republican form of govenment’ cannot be said to reflect opposition to direct democracy. It is fitting, then, that many states have adopted direct democracy and our highest courts have given it their imprimatur." Hirch is refrencing the 24 states who currently have the initiative process (which is a form of direct democracy) and how the Supreme Court has acknowledged their Constitutional right to do so.

Misconception #2: Mob rule. This is my favorite one to discredit because it is here where we are completely void of any factual basis for this notion. For starters, with over a 310 million Americans and counting, there are no mobs. The more diverse a nation the less likelihood there is for stable majorities on any particular issue. Hirch wrote: "However, America’s large, heterogeneous population mitigates against oppressive majoritarian action at the national level…People know they will sometimes be in the minority, and thus may hedge their bets, by exercising restraint when they are in a majority. As James Madison reminded us, an individual state is far more likely to be dominated by a single tyrannical majority faction than is the nation."

To further discredit the ridiculous "mob rule" mentality lets ask those who support it for some examples of ‘The People’ exemplifying this on the National level. Do the believers of "mob rule" mean to say that the majority of Americans are racists or chaufvenistic thugs who can’t wait to start burning cars and beating people? Or that ‘The People’ just can’t wait for the opportunity to oppress one another through law making? What absurdity. While I’m certainly not implying that many Americans are not racist or chauvenistic, I can safely say it is not the majority of us. I’ll also remind the believers in "mob rule" that historically it has been government policy (not citizen policy) which supported slavery and segregation. If I’m not mistaken, it was national initiative which gave woman the right to vote and national protest which forced the hand of government to repeal segregation, no?

I believe "mob rule" comes from a misguided and unfounded trust of others. Do we consider our jury system of 12 individuals to be incapable of deliberating the evidence when they convict or acquit? Do we consider jurors and those who serve on them "mobs"? Of course we don’t, so why can’t we trust them to make laws? We trust them to imprison and sometimes to execute.

I also believe the "mob" mentality is used out of context. People behave much like mindless creatures in confined, panic situations, not in deliberate law-making; when they are keenly aware the laws they are passing will also effect their own lives. "The people can never willfully betray their own interests; but they may possibly be betrayed by their representatives"- Federalist, No.63. Let’s put the whole groundless "mob rule" notion to bed already.

The current initiative process which exists in 24 states is flawed. With the exception of Oregon, the initiative process lacks debate and transparency. These fundemantal flaws have given direct democracy a somewhat deserved black eye. However,a process does exist which has studied the flaws of our current initiative system and devised a very deliberative alternative which I believe will impress most of those who take the time to study and learn it. It is called the National Initiative for Democracy (www.ni4d.us or www.vote.org). I, and many others believe that only deliberative, citizen participation in law making will give us back what we are lacking most…power.

"The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and woman submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments"-George Washington.

To think that we can "get control" of our nation by voting a politician out is to ignore the fact that they’ve enjoyed a 90% re-election rate for many decades now. To think that turning to our elected represenatives to "police" themselves is effectively turning to the problem for the solution. People need to get involved in policy making and stop distrusting one another to such an extent that we actually feel our nation will somehow get out of this quagmire without the direct influence of our citizens. Not going to happen. Not by a long shot, folks.

Stephen Verbeek