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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/13/16

Why Bernie Sanders should put Direct Democracy on top of our agenda

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Message Evan Ravitz

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Acute observers like George Gallup Sr, the pollster; Noam Chomsky, the most-cited academic alive; and recently, John Kerry, US Secretary of State, say that Americans are way ahead of our government. Gallup:

"On most major issues we've dealt with in the past 50 years, the public was more likely to be right"based on the judgment of history"than the legislatures or Congress."

Leaders like Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Patch Adams, Daniel Ellsberg, Doris "Granny D" Haddock, Julia Butterfly Hill, John Perkins, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Coleen Rowley, Ralph Nader and Pete Seeger have all endorsed former Senator Mike Gravel's plan for national direct democracy. Mike ran for President in 2008 to publicize it, but the media gave him little chance. I worked directly for Mike in 2002, and signed up these folks, except Perkins.

But famous supporters are the least of the reasons we should make direct democracy a top priority. Indeed, an advantage of direct democracy is it counteracts the "star system" that makes only the richest, most powerful and most famous the "deciders," politically and socially.

As longshoreman/philospher Eric Hoffer put it,

"Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many."

Since "the 99%" have no representation in Congress, according to Princeton research, most Americans give up participating in their country's affairs.

Remember "no taxation without representation"?

Fortunately, direct democracy exists in crude form in 24 States and DC as ballot initiatives and referendums, and lets ALL voters be "deciders." If you can get enough signatures to get your proposal on the ballot, you can help set the agenda, too.

We must expand this to the whole country, and improve the process.

Initiatives and referendums were the start of everything from women's suffrage, child labor laws and secret ballots to minimum wages, 8 hour days and sunshine acts to renewable energy mandates, medical and legal marijuana.


1. Really getting money out of politics may require direct democracy: Polls show about 80% of all voters want it, but representatives for many decades have left loopholes big enough to drive trucks of cash through. Remember how Granny D walked across the US at age 90 to help get the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act passed? Now the problem is worse than ever. Money seeks politicians0, so we need to put people into politics, not just to elect representatives, but to keep money out and keep the country on track.

2. Bernie Sanders has repeatedly said that to get his agenda through an obstructive Congress, he'll need a million people to occupy the National Mall. That's doable, but occupiers eventually have to go back to their lives. Something permanent must remain to empower people, and make Congress our representatives.

3. Just as Progressives and Populists over a century ago demanded state initiatives and referenda and quickly used them to get women's suffrage, direct election of senators and secret ballots, polls have shown for decades that national ballot initiatives would advance our agenda. This is especially important when Congress is gridlocked or bought off.

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Age 12 I wrote: "If we don't become more like the Indians, more cooperative in our relations, we will destroy ourselves." I saw the US destroying Guatemala in the 80s. I learned from Howard Zinn that all the polls by 1975 showed that Americans (more...)

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Why Bernie Sanders should put Direct Democracy on top of our agenda

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