I'm not saying we should get rid of Congress, I'm saying that we should add to it by embracing The National Initiative for Democracy (aka NI4D), a campaign for ballot initiatives at all levels of government.
Together with a few dozen other people, I am helping to create a documentary about the history of democracy and how the NI4D is the next natural step in that process. Even though we're making the movie with volunteers, we still have some small costs, and that's where you come in.
Find out more below the fold.
In case you didn't see it, former Senator Mike Gravel also had a diary about this yesterday. It was cross-posted to OpEdNews, as well.
And just a heads up - if you have any kind of skills or knowledge that could help us with making or distributing or promoting the movie, please just say so in the comments or email me (it's listed on my profile). Thanks!
So just what is the NI4D?
It's described on its website as:
The National Initiative for Democracy (NI4D) is a proposed Constitutional amendment which recognizes the Peoples' right to make laws and a federal law which spells out orderly procedures for the People to develop and vote on laws.
The constitutional amendment - called the Democracy Amendment - will set up a basic process for initiatives. It expands the right to make laws to the people, creates an administrative body to administer these elections, and says that only "natural persons" (read: humans, as opposed to corporations) can sponsor an initiative or fund it. The Democracy Act, the law that accompanies the Amendment, fleshes out the details of the process, such as the reforms I describe below.
An important aspect of the NI4D is summarized on the same page that I quote from before:
The National Initiative does not change or eliminate Congress, the President, or the judicial system. Laws created by initiative must still stand up in the courts just like laws created by Congress. The National Initiative adds an additional check ---- the People ---- to our system of checks and balances, while setting up a working partnership between the People and their elected representatives.
A lot of thought and time has gone into developing these things, and people from Senator Mike Gravel to Yale Law professor Akhil Reed Amar to initiative activist Paul Jacobs had a say in what went into it. It took over a decade to develop, and now it's ready to be pitched to the people. That's the purpose of this documentary.
So why should we even have national ballot initiatives? When answering this question, it's important to keep things in perspective. This would not replace any part of our government, it would simply add an avenue for the people to change laws. It would supplement the work of Congress. If our legislators didn't act on an issue, or acted in a way the people didn't like, then we would be able to address it ourselves through an initiative. In this respect, it is quite similar to how it works in the 24 states that already have this power. When legislatures fail to pass drug law reform, the people do it - for instance, medical marijuana has been legalized in 10 states by ballot initiative and in 2008 we even saw small amounts of marijuana decriminalized by ballot initiative in Massachusetts. In the past, the poll tax was eliminated by ballot initiative in many states, women's suffrage was instituted in 13 states by initiative and referendum, and 6 of the 7 states that have publicly financed elections had them put in place by initiative.
If enough public support develops for this idea and it passes, it will not only be a movement to spread the initiative process, but to reform it so that the problems that exist in places like California will be eliminated. As I wrote in a previous diary, "This is not your grandmother's ballot initiative." It includes a lot of structural improvements over the state and local systems put in place in the late 1800s and early 1900s by the first populist and progressive movements. Possibly the most significant reform is one that is very similar to what is currently being implemented in Oregon: randomly-selected citizens' deliberative committees that will review each initiative for weeks before they get to the ballot. The independence from the legislature and the direct citizen involvement are preserved, but each proposal can now be improved through the tool of deliberation. Other important reforms include things like an elected body whose responsibility is to administer elections, a majority of registered voters in two elections (as opposed to a majority of voters who show up) required to pass a constitutional amendment, and more things that will ensure a checked and balanced system of ballot initiatives.
If you're interested in learning more just ask in the comments, and http://ni4d.us and http://vote.org are two great places to start. The first has a lot of information about NI4D itself and the second has some good info about past ballot initiatives and how they don't really benefit any ideology. They both have a long list of endorsers, including Pete Seeger, David Swanson (a Kossack!), Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Doris "Granny D" Haddock, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and others.
So what can you do to help the NI4D?
There are a number of things. I think I'll put them in a convenient list form:
- THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS DIARY: Donate to fund the documentary - the main reason I'm posting this diary is our money bomb today, 11/10/09. We're going to release it for free online, so we need all the donations we can get. You can also donate directly to the Democracy Foundation, the organization behind the NI4D. (See #2 for how to promote the money bomb on Facebook and Twitter)
- This is probably the easiest way to help - promote NI4D on social networking sites. This is the best advertising we can get. I recently created a Facebook page for the NI4D documentary, a Facebook page for the event, and a Twitter account (@ni4dfilm, and you can follow @ni4d, too). Also, there are a few groups on Facebook and a causes page.
- Join the mailing lists and/or the Google Groups to help plan and carry out actions supporting NI4D. You can join the general group, the video group if you're interested in helping with the documentary, or you can email me (RossMLevin at gmail dot com) to find out about a new project we're doing to organize for NI4D on the local level. If you don't want to join a Google Group, or if you want email updates as well, SIGN UP FOR THE NI4D NEWSLETTERS HERE.
- If you think there's any other way you can help, just let me know! All talents, volunteers, services, knowledge, etc. is appreciated.
I know this idea might seem far out there. But there are already 24 states with initiative processes and all 50 states give the legislature the right to put a referendum on the ballot, so it's only natural to bring this to the national level. Maybe a story will illustrate my point. My physics teach was telling the class the other day about how nothing actually "touches" - molecules just repel each other with electromagnetic force. But I thought, they are touching, if you just redefine what "touching" means. And that's exactly what we need to do with government. We need to redefine government, we need a complete paradigm shift, so that the government fears the people, instead of the people fearing the government.