Rosen, 57 and single, is a newcomer to politics. Since graduation in 1974 from Brandeis University, where he studied music composition, he has earned his living as a classical and jazz violinist and violist, a composer, an inventor of musical gadgets, and an instructor at the University of Nevada Reno and online. He is the creator of an interactive music education web site which has attracted students from various nations.
Last year Rosen came up with an idea for "Nevada Vote Direct," a system that would enable constituents to tell their representative in Congress how they want him or her to vote on any given issue. Unable to obtain endorsement for the idea from Nevada politicians, he decided to try initiating the system by gaining election to office and putting it in place as a member of Congress.
I asked Rosen to provide the positions he intends to take on a number of controversial issues, but he declined to respond for the reasons he explains below in my interview with him. BHW
Wolfe: You have proposed a revolutionary way for the constituents of a member of Congress to obtain votes from her or him on the issues of the times. Instead of my summarizing the method you propose, I will let you do that.
Rosen: I am the first candidate anywhere to offer a secure state-of-the-art digital voting system that will enable citizens in my district TO CONTROL my votes in Congress. My candidacy is connected with "Nevada Vote Direct," a citizen initiative to end political corruption and make government more responsive to the people. At Nevada Vote Direct, registered voters in Nevada's 2nd Congressional District may vote not only on the issues of the day, but also on specific legislation pending in Congress. The system provides secure electronic voting in secret ballots conducted continuously on the Internet or by telephone. People are not obligated to vote, and may vote only on the issues and bills that concern them. But this is not just another opinion poll, for I have pledged that, when elected, I will vote in Congress EXACTLY as directed by the majority of voters in my congressional district no ifs, ands, or buts.
W: Suppose you are elected to Congress, and the majority of your constituents tell you to vote on an issue in a way that is repugnant to you or directly in opposition to your beliefs as to what is best not only for Nevada but also for the entire country. Would you really vote the way the majority asked you to do so anyway?
R: Yes, I will be bound by the majority will of my constituents without waiver or recourse. One can't decide this question narrowly, with a moral focus on any single vote that might be repugnant to me. First of all, I understand and accept that members of Nevada Vote Direct in their majorities will sometimes vote badly, and make mistakes from my point of view. But we cannot let this deter us, for the results are really very rarely good with the current status quo. Nevada Vote Direct cannot be judged against unreal standards of perfection. Nevada Vote Direct makes no claims to Utopia. The important thing to grasp is that Nevada Vote Direct would eliminate corruption, once and for all, from the political equation. Representatives would be subject to constituent control, and so votes would no longer be bought and sold in Congress. This would be a significant accomplishment in itself. But we have every reason to expect more good to come out of it besides. In fact, decades of social research and polling lead me to believe that a system of citizen control of government would result in much more sensible legislation than we have been getting in our customary way. In short, I created Nevada Vote Direct because I have faith in my fellow citizens. Consider the alternative in which a handful of corrupt lobbyists and their indentured politicians make decisions purely for the sake of private gain. I'll stake my future on the intelligence and integrity of my neighbors and fellow citizens any day of the year before I will entrust my fate to a politician who respects nothing but the face of wealth and power and the hand that holds the checkbook. The subjection of my will to the will of the majority is not as radical as it may seem. It is really just another expression of the animating spirit of our democratic traditions. Our better instincts lead us to share power rather than hoard it. We understand this very well in other contexts that are more familiar to us. For example, what do we expect from a judge who may be personally repelled by the judgment of a duly-constituted jury? Do we permit the judge to set aside the verdict for purely personal reasons?
W: While the method you propose certainly is the ultimate in democratic philosophy, your critics will argue that the reason the U.S. is a republic rather than a pure democracy is that the representative of the people is expected to know more than her or his constituents, to lead rather than to follow, to steer progress along the most educated lines rather than depend on a public perhaps not fully informed, and in the process to work out the inevitably necessary compromises with other members of Congress. How do you respond to that criticism which is definitely going to be directed at your proposed method?
R: Yes, all too predictable are the objections of people who, truth be told, have very little respect for their neighbors and fellow citizens. They say that ordinary citizens are not equipped to decide for themselves what their future shall be. They say that we elect representatives because they are smarter than we, and know more about the complicated issues that confront us as a nation. Our representatives should do the thinking, and we should do the electing. It's quite a bargain, and it works out very well for our representatives and their sponsors. They ride in the limelight at the front of the parade, while we tramp along in the mud at the back. Never mind that more than half the seats in Congress have gone to a clan of dimwits and fools. Never mind that even our intelligent representatives have themselves admitted that they rarely read the text of the laws they approve. How can they, when nearly every waking hour is taken up meeting with surly lobbyists and donors who will finance their re-election? When I am elected, I will convey the will of my constituents without reservation to the halls of government. That will be the day when the democratic ideal of the nation's founders will be realized in all its glory. Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were mocked and rebuked by people who said that only kings and titled boobs were capable of governing a nation. But they stood fast, and proclaimed to all the world their faith in the common people of the land, the farmers and workers, the teachers and artisans, the mothers and fathers on whose hardworking shoulders have been carried everything that was good and decent in all the history of the world. It is extremely important to point out that this objection about republican versus democratic government is based on a very shallow comprehension of American history. The Founders, like people today, argued and struggled with each other to work out the various structures and procedures established in our Constitution and its Amendments. There was a wide spectrum of views regarding the nature and function of representation. Some upheld a more "democratic" vision of it than others. However, there was no dispute regarding the fundamental sovereignty of the people and the need for Congress to express the people's will. They had a gripe, which they called "taxation without representation." And so, they would instantly recognize that we suffer from that very same political abomination today. I am convinced they would use the best technology currently available, as they did in their time, and as I am doing today, in order to ensure that the government will be truly representative and truly responsive to the will of the people. Corporate special interests are using 21st century technology in a hundred-and-one ways to sever the bonds that extend from people to government. Yet, citizens have been using 19th century horse-and-buggy political technology in countless vain and futile attempts to redress the balance. We have a better idea. Nevada Vote Direct uses new technology to put people directly in control of their representatives. What could be simpler or more desirable?
W: Was it because you found that your proposed method would be unacceptable to either the Democratic or Republican party that you chose not to enter the Nevada primary as a candidate for either, but rather to run as an independent? Or what was the reason?
R: I am not a member of any political party. The major political parties are the funnel through which special interests push oceans of corrupting dollars into the political process. They are the joy-stuck controllers in the game of power and wealth called "Demockery." I did not run in the primary as a member of either party because I am trying to emphasize the idea that, while the solutions to our problems are near at hand, they are wholly outside our conventional frames of reference in the political parties. Parties are the horse-and-buggy technology of ancient civilizations. Forget Republicans, forget Democrats, and forget Third Parties. Take direct control of your representatives in government. That's what 21st century technology is for. Would you tolerate a politician who refused to use the telephone? Why do you tolerate politicians who still don't use digital networking technology to measure the will of their constituencies? Lincoln said that he wanted to do the will of the people, but that he didn't know what that was. Today, it would be no problem. Just count the votes.
W: How many signatures did you need to qualify for the primary?
R: 100 signatures were sufficient. We gathered about 230 in order to be quite sure.
W: Do you have any support from any organizations other than your own Vox Populi and Nevada Vote Direct, and if so which organizations?
R: No, we do not have any support from other organizations.
W: Have any polls or studies been taken that enable you to determine what percentage of the vote you may get, and if so can you project a result?
R: No polls or studies.
W: Do you have a realistic expectation of being elected to Congress as an independent, or are you running only to get publicity for the voting method you propose?
R: Why is this an either/or? I am trying to win. But, if I am elected, that will be just the first step along the path of political transformation that we will be following. We will encourage other people in other districts to follow our lead, until a substantial majority of representatives in Congress use systems of citizen control like Nevada Vote Direct. In other words, my victory, much more than my campaign, would be an ideal way of publicizing the political renovation that I advocate. Why settle for less when you can have it all? Do I have a realistic expectation of being elected? I have been astonished by the enthusiastic response that we have had from people in our district. During the petition drive, and in candidate events that I've attended in recent months, I've met hundreds of people. Many have said things like: "Well, that's just the way it should be." "I had the same idea myself." "That's wonderful." Given the dissatisfaction with government that is palpable among the people in this (predominantly Republican) district, I am convinced that I can win the election. It depends simply on making enough people aware of this option in their political life. People will vote for it if they know about it.
W: From what admittedly little I know about you, it seems that you would be more inclined to vote with Democrats than Republicans on most issues. If I am reading you correctly, since the Second District is now under Republican control, are you not concerned that you may take just enough votes away from the Democratic Party's candidate to ensure that a Republican continues to hold the office?
R: One can't apply a quantitative measure to this question in other words, just count the number of votes we'd have in common and choose a side. This would be to practice the art of politics on a very primitive level. If we hope to stimulate deeper currents of change (and I hope we do), then many other factors need to be taken into consideration. Otherwise we are forever paddling at the top of a stagnant sea of habit and custom. Besides, in my judgment, Jill Derby [the Democratic candidate] hasn't a shadow of a chance of winning the election in this solidly Republican district (she'd be the first Democratic representative in its history). Whereas, if I had her million dollar campaign chest, I am quite sure that I would win. For I believe that even more disenchanted Republicans than Democrats would vote for me. Ms. Derby is the spoiler in this race. I invite her to withdraw from the race and throw her support to me. After all, she has said that she wants to represent the citizens of Nevada in Washington. Since I have created the technology for doing this simply and infallibly, and literally at the flick of a voting switch, she would have to admit that I can do a better job of it than she can.
W: What fundamentally different views separate you from those of your opponents?
R: This question and all the others that follow [my questions re the positions he takes on major issues of this era] are strictly irrelevant to my campaign. It would be self-indulgence to answer them, since my answers would have no bearing on how I would vote in Congress on related legislation. When I express my position on the various issues of the day, I will vote at Nevada Vote Direct, just as any other registered voter in our district may do. And my vote at Nevada Vote Direct will carry no more weight than any other vote. My votes in Congress will not be determined by my own positions on any of the issues that you've asked about. When I vote in Congress on any question, I will take a measure of constituent will in my district (count the votes) and be directed accordingly. But I can't resist asking a question myself. Why do we persist, like robots running on automatic each election cycle, asking from our candidates for public office their opinions on the various issues of the day? Far from considering their constituents, our representatives do not take even their own personal positions into account when they vote in Congress - in those cases, that is, when they really do actually have a position. Instead, they vote according to the demands of the big money special interests that easily and regularly corrupt the process day in and day out, year after dreary year. Why do we participate in this absurd ritual of servile supplication, asking what they think of this or that pressing problem? I am not asking people to trust me to fulfill my promises and stand by my principles. I am asking people to take charge.
W: If you fail to gain election to Congress, will you nevertheless continue to be active in politics, and if so in what ways?
R: Although I have been a lifelong student of politics and history, and I am deeply concerned with our present and future condition as a living planet, I am by nature and profession a musician and composer. An idea came to me and I have articulated it as clearly as I could. It is not for me to decide. It is for the people to decide. Here is your long promised ticket to fair and honest government. Membership is free, but it will cost you a little bit of imagination. Take it if you like. Make it so if you will.