Transforming the Electoral Oligarchy of the United States of America into a participatory democracy

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Baby Steps, Baby

Is the greatest obstacle to liberty government or corporations? Is our constitution an inspired or a seriously flawed document? Should we amend the constitution or simply return to its basic principles? Should we pursue greater democracy, or should we fear it?

Corporate Personhood

Tonight I attended a discussion about the role of corporations in our society, and more specifically aimed at amending the U.S. Constitution to specify that corporations are not people and should not be entitled to the rights or privileges afforded by the constitution to “the people.” Let me say right off the bat that I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that such an amendment is important and necessary to the advancement of our society. However, I would like to take some issue with some of the ideas that came up tonight.

The primary sponsor of the event was MoveToAmend, and the speaker from that organization was David Cobb, who was the Green Party’s 2004 presidential candidate, and who I knew before that from our time working together in the Harris County Green Party in Houston, Texas. If you haven’t seen Cobb speak, you should. He is the son of a minister, and a lawyer as well as a political activist. These factors probably contribute a great deal to his engaging speaking style.

During his presentation, his only real prop, aside from an impromptu grabbing of a chair, bag, and a stack of papers to demonstrate the endless cycle of desire that is consumerism, was a large tablet on an easel like you may have seen in meetings at work. On it, he created two columns. On the left he put “We the people” and on the right, he put “government” (Though he is on the political left, there was no suggestion that this placement had any right-left political undertones). Also on the left, he put sovereignty, individual rights, and private interests. On the other side, he put “subordinate and accountable” [to the people], collective duties, and the public interest.

The point of this dichotomy was to show that some things are characteristic of individual persons, and others are characteristic of the broader society, and to explain that corporations were originally [in American history] required to undergo much more public scrutiny in acquiring and maintaining their charters, and in their purposes and actions, and were thus “public” entities, and that the current notion, as expressed by the Supreme Court in Citizens United vs. FEC, that corporations are private entities entitled to First Amendment protection of the right to free speech, specifically through political contributions, is a distortion of the original intent of the constitution and its framers.

Democracy

I will discuss the merits of “original intent” later, but first, I want to point out that if we really believe in the notion of popular sovereignty, then we must work to transform our constitutional republic into a constitutional democratic republic. The constitution, theoretically at least, protects a handful of individual rights, but it does not protect popular sovereignty, and without that, those individual rights become harder to protect. Part of the intent of the framers was to protect individual rights from popular sovereignty (i.e. democracy), but what they either could not see from their perspective or were trying to disguise (or more likely, a little of both)  is that without democracy, the system set up by the constitution would be an oligarchy.  Of course, it has in fact always been an oligarchy, originally an electoral aristocracy that has gradually morphed into an electoral plutocracy.

As Mr. Cobb mentioned this evening, the right to vote in this country was originally limited to property-owning white males, but even when it was extended to the non-propertied, other races, and to women, simply having the right to vote has never been sufficient to protect the liberty and justice that the constitution ostensibly intended to guarantee. Voting is merely the chance to select between a set of choices predetermined by the ruling elite, who eliminate or marginalize those choices that would threaten their mechanisms for guiding politics, economics, laws, and society in general. Even those rights we consider most basic, such as free speech and habeas corpus have been extended only when the elite finds it politically expedient, and have been rescinded when necessary for the maintenance of the oligarchy.

I contend that only “the people” can have the interests of “the people” at heart, and only through popular sovereignty can justice and liberty be assured; therefore, only through the democratization of our constitutional republic can we protect our rights, and that any form of government that is not a democracy is a form of tyranny. Given that, our goal must not be to highlight the dichotomous nature of the relationship between “we the people” and “government,” but rather to strive for the eradication of any distinction between them. We must become the government. We must recognize that the private interests of individual rights and liberties can only be realized, sustained, and assured through the public interests of universal and equal justice and our collective duty to each and all of us.

This does not necessarily mean that Cobb was wrong to categorize these things. It does mean that we need to have a Taoist understanding of how these things which may seem to be polar opposites are intrinsically interdependent. An important part in redesigning our society and our government to achieve to achieve a constitutional democratic republic out of our existing constitutional plutocratic republic certainly involves recognizing that corporations are not people, and that they should not be afforded the rights and privileges recognized in our constitution as belonging to “the people.” I attended the forum tonight because I thought it was probably the most important part in that process. I realize now that I was wrong. It is a key step, but it is just one of many steps, and it is not the most important or even the first step.

The Ruling Elite

During the question and answer period, one audience member commented that corporations are not actually the enemy, but are merely a tool of the ultra-wealthy elite who own controlling interests in most of the mega-corporations that dominate our government. Cobb acknowledged this fact and used an analogy of a knife which might be used to slice food to share, or to commit a violent attack on another. In his example, the knife is not intrinsically evil. The real problem is the person wielding it, but the first thing the potential victim must do is neutralize the threat from the knife, and only then can the would-be attacker be addressed. Indeed, the modern multinational corporation is a weapon wielded by the elite, and part of achieving democracy will entail neutralizing the political threat to our sovereignty from that weapon, but the analogy oversimplifies both the problem and the solution.

In a similar vein, many on both the far right and the far left often demonize “the government” as the enemy of the people and/or liberty. Of course, given the current reality, it is not hard to see it that way. Again, however, we must realize that the government as it currently exists, and as it has always existed in this country, is a tool of the elite. Rather than striving for the elimination of government, we should strive for the elimination of the distinction between government and the people. This will entail not one, but many amendments to the existing constitution.

The Constitution

Many Americans venerate the constitution as an inspired, nearly flawless document crafted by extraordinarily gifted and irreproachable individuals, believe that the problems of our modern society and government stem from a deviation from the principles of that constitution, and advocate a return to those principles as the avenue of our deliverance. Although even most of these people readily acknowledge the constitution’s most glaring flaw – it’s codification and legitimation of chattel slavery – they naively ignore the harsh reality that whatever problems we may currently face can be directly or indirectly attributed to that document. Whether you believe that the greatest tragedy of our political history was Marbury vs. Madison, the repeal of Taft-Hartley, the establishment of the IRS, Citizens United vs. FEC, or the New Deal (or any number of other things), these things were all results of the system of electing and appointing people to positions of power, and the rules provided for the operation of governmental institutions, as established by the constitution. A different constitution would likely have yielded different outcomes, some worse and some better, but in most cases, certainly different. A constitution that established a government that could more accurately be called a constitutional democratic republic would surely have done a better job at protecting the interests of the people rather instead of those of the ultra-wealthy than the one we currently have.

However, the constitution we have is the one with which we must work. So how do we transform it into the document we ought to have? Two other questions from tonight’s Q&A should help in answering this question. My own question to David was (loosely paraphrased): what strategy does Move To Amend have, or should “we the people” have, in trying to establish the immense grasstroots network of support that will be required to either pressure elected officials or to specifically elect people to office to amend the constitution, given that it will require 2/3 of both houses of Congress to propose it and majorities in 3/4 of state legislatures to ratify it? Part of his answer was to point out that a constitutional convention called by 2/3 of the states is another avenue available in Article V for proposing amendments, and that 3/4 of state conventions provide an alternative method of ratification. While true, this does not change the fact that either method of proposal basically requires 2/3 of the country, and either method of ratification requires the approval of 3/4 of the states. Granted, due to the nature of our majoritarian system, 2/3 of Congress or of state legislatures might be elected by something closer to 1/3 of the electorate, and 3/4 of state legislatures or state conventions might, in the worst case, actually represent less than 40% of voters, and given a 50% voter turnout, all these numbers might be achieved with the support of less than 20% of the population. However, achieving results with such a low percentage of support would require extremely (and unrealistically) fortunate placement of that support. Furthermore, as a movement aimed at enhancing the democratic nature of our government, would we even want to “win” with such a small minority?

Equality

The other relevant question that came up during Q&A was raised by several people, and is intimately related to my question about building a massive supermajority of popular support: how do we (in this case meaning the political left, though the support that we will need to build must certainly include left, right, and center) include communities of color into this effort? The question was initially raised because although the meeting was held in a community recreation center in a predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood, the room was full of white faces, with only three exceptions. The apparent conclusion must be that either the organizers of the event did not reach out to these communities, or that the issue does not resonate in them. The ensuing discussion suggested that it was a bit of both. One of the two black gentlemen in the audience made a very important point. He pointed out that while most Blacks recognized that corporate power perpetuates the system of inequality that results in inordinate proportions of unemployment, poverty, and crime in communities of color, the average Black American is forced by circumstance to dedicate their energies to meeting the more basic necessities of life than to political activism. Further, those Blacks who are able to become politically active, because of their experiences, are usually more inclined to work on solutions to those problems that are more directly evident in their communities. I would add to his comments that the rise of the corporation as the primary tool of the elite for dominating American government did not make life worse in Black communities. Their problems predate the modern multinational. Various analyses are possible, but I would guess that either racism or capitalism, or both, would seem the logical target for Blacks whose activism is informed by history, and that corporate power would seem a distant third when determining which problems require the most urgent attention.

Consequently, since the movement for democracy both implies social and political equality and will require massive support, which will likely be impossible without the Black and Hispanic communities, and which will probably also necessarily include the LGBTQ community, the primary issue we must address in order to eventually pursue democracy in this country is equality. We must eliminate racism, sexism, and homophobia in our laws, and in our society.

As more than one person tonight suggested, this means that white political activists (not all, perhaps, but many) must temporarily set aside other issues (or at least recognize them as secondary in importance), including renewable energy, peace, and yes, corporate power, however important they may seem, to get involved in communities of color, learn what their issues are, and build solidarity in the pursuit of those issues. It may be presumptuous of me, but I would bet that the underlying theme of most of those specific issues is equality.

Elites have demonstrated throughout history that the people’s issues are not their issues, and they will give them attention only when forced by sheer magnitude of public demand. Thus, our various issues will require a massive democratic grassroots movement, which will not get off the ground until mainstream progressives and libertarians (both little and capital L) show that they are willing to make a serious committment to equality. We have many steps to take to transform our society into one that exemplifies the ideals set out in the preamble to our constitution, or that meets the standards of “liberty and justice for all” as expressed in the Pledge of Allegiance most of us recited so many times in our youth, and which many of us believed for so long to be the truth. As David Cobb expressed it this evening, even when we realized it was not true, most of us still believe it is what we deserve. The first step in achieving that dream is to realize that the partners we need to win our battle for democracy cannot help us until we help them. The second step is to get involved in those marginalized communities and develop solidarity with them in their struggles.  We may not need to fully realize the dream of equality to get our brothers and sisters of color (including the colors of the rainbow) involved with the struggle for democracy, but we need to achieve it if democracy is to be real and meaningful. And to get there, we have to start with baby steps.

Obama’s presidency is evidence that no individual savior can or will change the current system

The only possible route to progressive policies is by first pursuing progressive changes in our politics. As long as less than 1% of the population controls 50+% of the wealth, and money is allowed to play significant roles in politics, not only in elections, but also in legislation and policymaking, then we will continue to get policies aimed at maintaining the basic socio-economic and political balance of power.

We need a new third party, or a consolidation of several into one. We need to create a party that will draw in Greens, Libertarians, socialists, independents, progressive Democrats, tea-party Republicans, and some non-voters with one single-minded ambition: to replace the two parties that serve the wealthy/corporate elite.  Part of the process of doing that will be to build a party that will not focus on left or right economic policies or social policies, but instead will focus only on altering our political structure to one that will remove money from the equation, one that will be more democratic, and that will allow the government to become the tool of the people instead of the wealthy via their corporations.

This new party must be willing to postpone the discussions about economic and social policies until we can successfully change the nature of politics in America to one in which people’s voices really matter. That is, we must work together to remove from the elites their exclusive hold on power. Continuing to argue about any policies other than that is playing into their hands!

Let me make clear, I am not advocating a long-term plan of single-party governance. Rather, I am advocating a single revolutionary party to work together on a relatively short-term basis to change the nature of American politics only. Once we have achieved that goal, we can reorganize into left-right or whatever other partisan divisions make sense to us at that time, but until then, divisions among us will just help elites maintain the status quo.

To change the way politics is done in this country will require winning MAJORITIES is AT LEAST 30% of state legislatures, county commissions, and city councils, and winning at least 30% of the seats in both houses of Congress. On our current path, who can tell us when any third party might achieve these milestones? Who is willing to wait that long?

William Domhoff believes that the Democratic Party can be the path to a more egalitarian America, but while I agree with most of what he has to say (most of his theory seems unassailable to me), I think the Democratic Party is far too aligned with the elite to break that tie. Further, the Democrats have already maximized the proportion of the American populace they can win over with their not-quite-so-right-wing politics, and a large enough segment within the Democratic Party are anti-egalitarian, anti-democratic elitists that if the party went that way, it would lose those people, and it will not make such a change. We have to steal the progressives and small-d democrats from the Democratic Party.

The Green Party is not so politically entrenched, and is dedicated to a very democratic and decentralized process, but it requires that members first acknowledge their adherence to the Ten Key Values. I personally agree with those values, and would like to see them incorporated into our society as a whole, but I am also aware that most of those values are potentially divisive among Americans. Social and economic justice, feminism, and a fundamentalist devotion to peace and nonviolence as policy, for instance, are far from being universally accepted by Americans, and requiring an affirmation of those values would prevent a large number from joining, even if they believed that Greens really had a chance for sweeping wins and that the clear focus would be on democratization of our politics.

I am not really sure how the Libertarian Party operates in terms of internal decision-making, but they have been so focused for so long on their monotonous mantra of smaller government as a magical panacea that it is difficult for me to imagine that they would allow that to be changed.

Thus, I believe that the only path is through the creation of a new party without any of these procedural obstacles or even any preconceptions about them. I’m not sure what we should call it, but we can discuss and decide that together, democratically.

Economic crisis points out need for more democracy

Our federal legislators and the folks in the executive branch seem to mostly agree that bailing out Wall Street is required to save our economy.  A handful of them are opposed, but for some reason, we are not hearing about any alternate proposals that will actually benefit the American people directly, including especially those homeowners who were swindled into predatory mortgages.  Yet, from reports I have heard, very significant portions of the population are objecting to the proposal(s) currently on the table.  Maybe if we had a system that would let everyday Americans get in on the discussion, we could come up with a better plan.  I have a couple of ideas, but I am certainly open to others.

If we are going to throw $700 Billion at this thing, it seems to me that there would be a much better way to do it.  Of course, the way that I believe would be best in the long-run would not fly at all with many Americans, or with any of our corporate-capitalist politicians because it would involve ending our sanctification of capitalism.  Nationalizing the banking industry and restructuring banking as a non-profit enterprise would benefit a lot more Americans than just those who are feeling pinched by the current crisis.  Of course, the only legitimate way to do that would be to include a citizens oversight board that would be superior to, and have at their disposal, both of the congressional oversight committees.

Another option that would be a more direct and short-term solution to this particular problem would be to guarantee all mortgages.  If a homeowner fails to make a mortgage payment, there is no foreclosure, no default, the government would make the payment, and the homeowner would then owe the government that amount, collectible at tax time.  I know the IRS already has some trouble collecting all of its debts, but at the very least, it seems like it would stabilize the market, prevent social disruption, and create a system that would transform us into a nation of homeowners rather than a divided nation of owners and renters.  Yes, if you are in the rental business, you might have to find some real work, but it would be a drastic improvement of our society.

I do not pretend to be a master of economics.  If this idea has flaws, and I’m sure it does, feel free to share them in comments, but try to stick to lingo that non-economists can understand.  And of course, if you have a suggestion for a wholly different idea that you believe is better, please make your case.

The Case for Abolishing the Presidency

In high school history and government classes, I was taught the basics of American government, but through a rose-colored lens. Perhaps that lens was placed there beforehand by growing up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every school day since first grade. Perhaps hearing “with liberty and justice for all” for about half of the days in each year put the idea in my head that it was true, but certainly not much of what I learned in high school history or government, or the required undergraduate government classes in college did much to dispel that notion. However, when I decided to become active in politics and got involved with the Green Party, I began to learn some of the harsher realities that got left out of those courses. Since then, I have learned more about the undemocratic tendencies of our political system, and that liberty and especially justice in this country are reserved for the few.

While there are many aspects of our political system that are undemocratic and/or oppressive of the people’s right to self-government, no institution is more so than the presidency. The mere fact that no singular person can possibly represent the broad range of perspectives of even a small nation, much less one of 300 million, combined with the fact that our system allows the president to populate the highest offices of the executive branch and determine all executive branch policy provides testimony to the unrepresentative nature of the presidency, and thereby the entire executive branch of our federal government. This is compounded by the president’s power to veto legislation that has passed both houses of Congress, nominate justices of the Supreme Court, and to act as commander-in-chief of the mightiest military the world has ever known. The amount of power vested in the office is more than any one person should ever have, and the unrepresentative nature of it makes it completely incompatible with any form of legitimate democracy. These are chief among the reasons why we the people of the United States must develop a movement to abolish the presidency.

While the powers of the presidency may have seemed appropriate in 1787, many realities have changed. The United States has become the world’s largest economy; almost immediately, we developed political parties that have more influence over our national politics than the separation of powers among the branches of government; slavery and indentured servitude have been abolished; former slaves and women have been guaranteed the right to vote; our nation has expanded across the continent; and our military has become more powerful than any in history. Furthermore, beyond our borders, other nations have developed political systems that are more representative that we might borrow if we are truly concerned about “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Perhaps the most important of these changes with regard to the inordinate power of the presidency is the might of our military. In 1787, the most likely, if not the only conceivable use of our military was in defense against a more powerful attacker, especially England, France or Spain, all of which still had colonial entanglements in North America. Indeed, in 1812, we had to defend ourselves against an attack from England. This was perhaps the first and last justifiable use of our military. Regardless, since then our military has engaged in several imperialist wars, and none legitimately in defense of our constitution. Most of these have begun as a result of actions taken by our presidents, and only later approved by Congress with a declaration of war, or in the last six decades by authorization to use military force without such a formal declaration. It is likely the decisions to attack Mexican troops in the disputed territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers, to initiate an embargo on the Japanese, to fabricate the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and to fail to respond to the attacks on New York and Washington, DC on 9/11/2001 were all done with some consultation among the Cabinet or other presidential advisors, but since all these positions are filled by the president, there is little chance that such deliberations included a broad spectrum of opinions.

Some other aspects of the presidency that have proven to be antidemocratic are less due to changes than to trial and error. For instance, the veto power of the presidency was intended to provide a check on Congress, but the fact that only about 10% of all presidential vetoes have been overturned suggests that the 2/3 supermajority needed to override a veto may be too great an obstacle, unless we are to believe that one person (the president) is 9 times more likely to reach the better conclusion that a democratically deliberative body (Congress). In fact, this is more likely a result of the bipartisan nature of our politics, which makes it nearly inevitable that one party will achieve a majority, but virtually impossible to have a 2/3 supermajority.

Another flaw in our political system that exhibits the undue power of the presidency is that federal judges, including Supreme Court justices are nominated exclusively by the president. Yes, they must also endure the confirmation of the Senate, but no matter how many times the Senate might reject a president’s nominees, the next nomination will also be made by the president. One of the detrimental effects of this system is that the Senate may on occasion confirm a nominee simply to avoid being seen by the public as obstructive, even though it may be the president who is refusing to nominate anyone who is worthy of the position. To some degree, these appointments have always been political, despite the concept that the judiciary should be independent of politics (hence the life tenure granted them in the constitution), but the politics associated with judicial appointments, especially to the Supreme Court, has heightened over time. In fact, I have heard several people argue in regard to this year’s (2008) presidential election that the most important reason to elect a Democrat this year is to ensure that the Republicans are not able to pack the Supreme Court any fuller with conservative justices, and I am sure that there are complementary arguments being made by some conservatives in regard to the rationale for electing a Republican this year, even though the Republican candidate is not very well liked in conservative circles. Consequently, we may elect someone to ostensibly the most powerful position on earth not based on that person’s own merits, but merely because of secondary considerations, such as likely judicial appointments.

All of these very important reasons for not vesting so much power in a singular individual notwithstanding, there is another reason that we should abolish the presidency that I believe is equally important. The preamble of our constitution sets out that the purpose of that document, and our experiment in representative government, includes a desire to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility… promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.” By maintaining a system of government that has such a decidedly unrepresentative structure, and that allows the interests of capital to supersede the interests of the people, we have failed to meet any of these objectives. Only by moving closer to democracy, by becoming vastly more representative in both the legislative and executive branches, and by seeking even greater independence for the judiciary, can we hope to realize these aspirations. Only when both the legislative and executive branches are made up of the people in a (proportionally) representative fashion and our judiciary is appointed by a process entirely independent of the other branches of government will We the People be able to set and enforce policy that is truly for the benefit of all, by truly striving for universal justice, peace, welfare and liberty.

The most unrepresentative of these in our current system is certainly the executive branch, which generally represents a large plurality, very nearly a majority, or perhaps sometimes actually a majority of Americans who bother to vote, but in any case, leaving a large portion of the American people unrepresented in the executive branch. While changes are needed in the legislative branch to make it more representative and more functional, the executive branch requires greater change more urgently. Furthermore, although it is difficult to prove empirically that decisions reached through one method are superior to those reached by another, it seems entirely logical that more often a better decision would result from a deliberative process and the meeting of many minds than from allowing one person to make unilateral decisions.

With all these points in mind, I suggest that the American people must create a movement that will eventually replace enough legislators at both the state and federal levels to amend the constitution to abolish the presidency and replace it with an executive committee. That committee, whatever we may call it, should be proportionally representative of the American population as a whole, should rotate the duty of presiding over that committee among its members, and should play no part in the legislative or judicial process. The nation’s military forces should not be commanded by a member of that committee, but should be subordinate to it, and commanded by a smaller committee made up of the various military departments’ chiefs-of-staff and secretaries (or whatever we may choose to call them after the reconfiguration of the executive). Furthermore, I would recommend that each of the departments of the executive (including the various departments of the military) should not have individuals (Secretaries) but rather smaller committees (Secretariats) leading them that are still somewhat representative of the population. The Cabinet could simply be the sum of all the departmental Secretariats.

Since many of the problems of our political system stem from the influence of money on elections, we should either have all state and federal elections paid for entirely through public funds, or we should select federal officials through some method other than national elections. Possibly the best solution would be to combine these two ideas: electing half of the Cabinet (including half of each departmental secretariat) through a publicly-funded party-line proportional vote, and the other half selected by an independent commission, which should be selected randomly to meet proportional demographic criteria. If the membership of the Cabinet is considered too large to make emergency decisions, we could authorize it to select a Steering Committee from among its members, with frequent rotation of terms to prevent any overreaching for personal power.

Although these specific suggestions about how we may eventually revise our executive branch may be different than the actual revisions we may choose through the democratic process of constitutional amendment (or perhaps through a new constitution), the office of the presidency has overstayed its welcome. We must abolish it and replace it with an executive branch that is not partisan and controlled unilaterally, and that does not have the power to control our legislative and judicial branches.

An Open Letter to Ralph Nader

What is the most important political issue in America today? There are probably many different answers to that question; however, most of them, if not all, can be reduced to one important root. In essence, we might say that root is a deficiency of democracy. That is, the core problem that leads to most or all of our other problems is that we are not sufficiently democratic. The people of the United States are not provided with sufficiently equal access to participate in our political deliberations and decisions, even though they affect all our lives, and as a consequence, the decisions made by our government are too often contrary to the interests of the American people, or even the nation as a whole. Instead, our political system provides access to corporations and those with the most capital to spend, and these are the beneficiaries of most of our public policy, often to the detriment of the rest of us, to our nation, and to the world.

For instance, if you are in agreement with the plurality of folks in this country, your answer is “the economy.” So then we must ask ourselves what is the problem with the economy? Again, there might be several different answers. In fact, most of the likely answers to this are actually interconnected. Some might say the problem is outsourcing of jobs. Some might say it is the influx of undocumented immigrants. Others might blame the subprime lending crisis. Yet others may reply that the occupation of Iraq is primarily responsible. The most clearly connected of these issues are immigration and outsourcing. Corporate globalization and so called “free trade” agreements have done considerable harm to the working classes here and in other nations, primarily for the benefit of large multinational corporations. NAFTA is largely responsible for the outsourcing of certain jobs to Mexico while also damaging small farms there and setting off a chain reaction that has led to falling wages throughout Mexico and an increase in immigration, both legal and illegal, into the United States. The combined effect of losing skilled jobs to Mexico and an influx of unskilled labor from Mexico has also had a negative impact on jobs and wages here. While many try to paint the immigrants themselves as the culprits, they are victims of the same policies that we are. So, why did our government approve a policy that would have these effects? Well, certainly some of the politicians who supported it can honestly claim ignorance. Some of them simply believed their “leaders” who told them it was a good idea, and did not believe the thousands of people in the streets who knew it was not. However, many of them were complicit with or unwitting victims of corporate lobbyists (and their own greed, of course). Who has benefited from NAFTA and other such agreements? Almost exclusively, it has been multinational corporations, the politicians who take their money, and the investor class.

Well, what about the other choices? If you are among those who believe the subprime lending/housing crisis is behind our economic hardships, you are not wrong, but you may be among those who simply did not notice that our economy has actually been going downhill for a while. In reality, the subprime banking industry came about because the economy was already slumping. More and more people were finding themselves unable to meet the credit and cash-on-hand standards to purchase a new home, so a new sector of the banking industry was created to meet a new need. Of course, the nature of banking being what it is, the industry that had already sent many of these folks swirling down the economic drain by sucking out their savings through credit card debt incurred from usurious interest rates had to take yet another stab at squeezing out whatever blood might be left in the stone. Well, how does that relate to the other issues, or to the common root issue? To answer that, we must ask how this new subsector of the credit industry was allowed to come into existence. Subprime lending, along with higher credit card rates, payday lending, and new bankruptcy laws that favor the creditors more than ever are results of new changes in related laws that all favor whom? That’s right, large multinational (banking) corporations, the politicians who take their money, and those who can afford to invest in those companies. And who have been the victims? Once again, it has been Americans who have to work 40 or more hours per week to keep food on the table and roofs over their heads. Dare I say “the working class” without fear of some right-wing pundit calling me a class warrior? Yes, I do. One of the hard truths that we must face as a nation is that the solutions to our national problems will inevitably involve the rich becoming less rich. That may not necessarily mean a direct redistribution of wealth, but it does mean at least ending subsidies, no-bid contracts and other sweetheart deals to corporations, tax cuts for the rich, and other laws that favor the wealthy over the rest of us and allow them to get richer from our toil while we get poorer.

That brings us to the other possible answer to what is driving our economy down: the occupation of Iraq. While it is one possible reason for our slumping economy, for other Americans, it is in itself the most important current issue in American politics. So, here we’ll be bridging the gap from the economy to our next subject: the military-industrial complex.

Some of you may call the occupation of Iraq “the war.” I refuse to do that. It is not a war, except a civil war among Iraqis. For the United States military, it is an occupation subsequent to an invasion. Like all our other military misadventures since the end of World War 2, there has been no declaration of war by Congress, and yet again, our troops are there in the middle of another country’s civil war, only this time, they don’t even know which side they’re on.

The problems with the Iraq issue are so numerous, it could easily be a book on its own (and certainly, it already has been), but I will try to keep it as brief as I can. First, I must point out that the invasion was illegal and entirely unwarranted. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or even WMD programs. There were no meaningful connections between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda. There was no authorization from the United Nations Security Council for an invasion. Furthermore, there was a very good reason why there was no such authorization: because anyone who bothered to check the media almost anywhere outside the United States, and even in the “alternative” media within the US knew there were no WMD in Iraq, knew the UN weapons inspectors were doing their jobs and had control of the situation, and knew that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were not a threat to the United States or any of its allies, nor to Iraq’s other neighbors.

Scott Ritter, who had been the UN Chief Weapons Inspector in the 1990’s, before Bill Clinton ordered him and his team out to begin a bombing campaign in Iraq, told us that even then, at least 90-95% of Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons had been destroyed by his team, or destroyed by Iraq and verified by his team. Furthermore, he told us that because of the tough sanctions program and relatively tight monitoring of the Oil For Food program, that US and UK officials inspected just about everything that went into Iraq, and the likelihood of Iraq being able to reconstitute any of its WMD under such scrutiny was very close to zero. That aspect was further supported by reports from humanitarian activists from the US working in Iraq that many needed medicines and other medical supplies were unable to get through to the people of Iraq because they were deemed by the US-UK coalition to be “dual use” materials. Add to that the fact that well before the invasion the UN had assigned Hans Blix to lead a new team of weapons inspectors and had been able to find no evidence of any WMD. Similarly, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief inspector, Mohamed El Baradei, had found no evidence of any nuclear weapons capability or program. In addition, the US sent Joseph Wilson to investigate claims that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Niger, and returned to tell us that those claims were false (and then, of course, his wife was outed as an undercover CIA operative as punishment for not playing along with the administration’s game)….

So that was all before the invasion. The rest of the world knew it, and that is why the Security Council would not approve a resolution that authorized an invasion. I knew it, and millions of other Americans knew it, yet somehow 296 of our Representatives and 77 Senators apparently did not, including 81 of 208 (39%) of the “opposition” Democrats in the House and 29 of 50 (58%) Senate Democrats. And if you believe that, there’s a little place in your neighborhood strip center that would like to offer you a payday loan….

The invasion of Iraq and toppling of its previous regime took around 40 days. Our military has been there now for over five years, and despite occasional lulls in the violence of the civil war, there has been no political progress toward creating any sort of sustainable society for the Iraqi people. So again, let’s ask ourselves who is benefiting and who is suffering as a result. The “winners” in this debacle have been Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater and other mercenary groups, the military-industrial complex, the politicians who support them and take their money, and those wealthy enough to invest in those companies…and let’s not forget al-Qaeda, whose recruiting and donations have been rising due to increased antipathy towards the United States, as we show ourselves to be ruthless invaders, imperial occupiers, and corporate colonists. And of course, once again, the losers are the working class of America, who pay a larger portion of their income in taxes to finance military misadventures we cannot afford instead of rebuilding our schools, roads, bridges, levees or power grid, instead of creating new “green” jobs through promotion of renewable energy, and instead of developing a single-payer universal health care system….

Speaking of which, perhaps some of you wondered why I didn’t mention our health care crisis as a possible reason for our economic woes. Others have simply been waiting for me to get to it as their number one issue in our current political vortex. Certainly, many of our nation’s nearly-poor and newly-poor have gotten there because of health care related debt, and this is undoubtedly having a negative effect on our economy, but that is only a part of the problem. As of 2005, the people of the United States spend 53% more per capita than the second biggest health care spenders (Switzerland), and 140% more than the median of other industrialized nations (1), yet our health care system is ranked 37th in overall effectiveness and 40th in satisfaction by the World health Organization (2, page 4). Our for-profit health insurance industry spends 31% of its revenue on administrative costs (3), while Medicare overhead costs only about 3%. We spend a large chunk of money reimbursing hospitals for emergency room care for people without insurance, instead of offering a universal health care system that would cost less and cover those same people, and allow them to seek care before it became an emergency, which would, of course, cost even less. Yes, moving to a single-payer system would add some taxes for many of us, but for most, it would be more than offset by eliminating insurance premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, and other health care costs under our current for-profit private insurance system. In this case, even most corporations would benefit from such a move, as they would no longer have to be responsible for maintaining a corporate health care plan to cover their employees (not that they are forced to by law now, but many must in order to compete for employees and/or to meet the demands of labor unions). So then, who benefits from this wrong-headed system? Just two industries really, but they are very powerful: the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and again, the politicians who are in their pockets and the investors who own their stocks.

The other two issues that polls show most Americans believe to be among the most important right now have already been mentioned here: terrorism and immigration Let’s address terrorism first. Despite the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995, terrorism did not really measure on the public radar as a major issue until the attacks of September 11, 2001. Since then, despite very few terrorism related arrests, and very few terrorism events, it remains near the top of our list. However, while many Americans are concerned about it more than we were before that tragic event, what are we really doing about it? It is difficult to say exactly, as our government has become very secretive, but in general, when they talk about it, they talk about our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In reality, confronting terrorism has very little to do with the military. Domestic law enforcement is what protects us from most potential avenues of terrorism, and dramatic attacks, like those of 9/11 would involve the military, but in a wholly defensive mode within or very near our own borders, not halfway around the world. Another important step we should be taking to prevent future acts of terrorism is a cultural exchange and outreach to those who seem most likely to threaten us. It is probably common enough knowledge that I need not say it, but I will anyway, to avoid any confusion or ambiguity. The current threat of terrorism seems to be greatest from radical, fundamentalist Islamist groups. One thing we should be doing as a nation in response to this is educating our own people. Specifically, Americans need to have a better understanding of Islam and Islamic cultures. We need to understand that the threat is not from the average Muslim, not from Islamic nations, is not a by-product of Islam as a religion, but is merely a small percentage of Muslims who have perverted their own religion in similar ways to how many Christians have. From the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Salem Witch Trials to the modern apocalyptic fundamentalists who would install a theocracy in place of our pseudo-democracy or the white supremacists who twist the Bible to fit their hatred and xenophobia, we have seen this before in a slightly different mask. We should also be developing diplomatic, political and economic connections with the people of the world, not only in Islamic nations, but also in southern Africa and South America, rather than pursuing corporate globalization and military hegemony that can only lead to further anti-American sentiment that might lead to new waves of terrorism in the future. We should also realize that there is a continuing threat of domestic “terrorism.” Within the US, there are separatist and survivalist groups who are usually well-armed and generally unhappy about the current state of affairs in our own country. Despite that threat, our government will often cite anarchists, environmentalists and animal rights groups as our greatest domestic terror threats, despite the fact that these groups, while often guilty of acts of vandalism, almost never cause injury (or death). Nevertheless, whether we call them terrorists or vandals, we should realize that their actions are a response to our society, and while we may not be willing to alter our behavior as they would desire, there might be avenues of progress that could diminish the threat without adversely affecting our society.

Furthermore, there is another type of domestic terrorism that we usually do not call by that name: violent crime, or even crime in general. While our overall crime rate has not risen dramatically, our perception as portrayed in our mainstream media suggests that it has. Furthermore, while the number or percentage of incidents of crime may not be increasing, perhaps the intensity is, although that may also be merely an impression resulting from media sensationalism. In any case, rather than merely calling attention to it, increasing law enforcement efforts (which never actually reduce any sort of crime), imprisoning more Americans, and propagating fear (i.e. terror), we ought to be taking proactive steps to reduce crime in America that can only come from addressing the controllable causes of criminal behavior. For the most part, these are socio-economic: poverty, unemployment, inadequate education, homelessness, social isolation. It should be easy to see that these are interconnected issues that lead us back to where this discussion began: our failing economy.

Moreover, as we look at each of these subgroups of “terrorism,” we see that our military approach to international terrorism has not only failed to decrease the risk, but has actually strengthened the groups we have singled out. The more we antagonize people in Iraq and Afghanistan by destroying their lands and killing their people, including tremendous numbers of civilians, the more we increase anti-American sentiment, which results in both greater funding and new recruits for the very groups we should be trying to diminish. Similarly, our economic and military policies in other parts of the world only increase the risk that new terror threats will grow from them, and our domestic “crack down” approach to crime and home-grown “terrorism” increases the number of people in prisons and children without one or both parents in the home, but does nothing to actually address the conditions that drive people to criminal behavior. Why? The military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, our antiquated fossil-fuel energy industry, and huge agricultural corporations are driving policy rather than the people.

Finally, we come to immigration. As I noted earlier, one of the primary causes of our increases in immigration in the last decade or so has been NAFTA. Passed in 1994 and effective in 1995, it has allowed subsidized American corporations to sell cheap foods and other goods in Mexico, driving many small farms and other small businesses out of business, or at least forcing layoffs as smaller producers transition to niche markets. This drives unskilled workers into urban centers where they can work below standard Mexican wage levels for newly relocated American corporations who have moved there for cheaper labor and production costs. This drives wages down and forces workers north for better wages, and driving some of them, as well as many displaced workers in the north, across the border to find work in the US. Simultaneously, of course, those jobs that have moved south of the border have evaporated from the American economy, creating higher unemployment here, which in turn creates hostility toward the immigrants who have come here to work. However, the jobs must be here, or they could not stay. Yet our government fails to increase the quotas for immigration to match the actual demand for the labor, so we end up with a tremendous number of undocumented workers. Certainly, they do not remain undocumented and receive lower wages without any occupational safety protection or other standards purely by choice. Some may immigrate hoping to achieve citizenship, others may simply desire employment and an eventual return to their home country, but our failure to provide a pathway to either in sufficient number to meet our own demand is simply that: our failure. The results are:

  • the anger of many Americans over what they see as criminal behavior, again as a result of economic conditions imposed by our own policy;
  • millions of undocumented people in this country who are probably afraid to come forward to report crimes, create black markets for a variety of goods and services, are virtually untraceable to our law enforcement if they do commit a crime, etc.;
  • reduced wages and occupational safety standards for all American workers, especially in those industries that use considerable amounts of undocumented workers.

I probably should not even need to say it by now, but once again, let us ask ourselves who is benefiting from these policies. Undoubtedly our answer again will be corporations (those selling cheap goods in Mexico, those taking advantage of cheaper overhead costs for production, and those hiring undocumented workers at reduced wages and not maintaining proper safety standards here in the US), the politicians who accept their contributions, and the stockholders in those companies.

It should not be difficult to understand now that all of our top political issues are problems stemming from the influence of corporate lobbyists and corporate money in our political system and the solution to all of these problems begins with reversing that. On this, I am sure that Ralph Nader would fundamentally agree; however, where we differ is in how we should confront this problem.

Earlier this year, I attempted to mount a campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to initiate a plan to tackle this issue by shifting political power to the people. I believe that it could be a very effective plan, but it will require someone other than me to pick up the banner. I believe you, Ralph Nader, could be that person. While my base of support was a small number of Greens, a few progressive independents and even a few Democrats here in Travis County, several of whom did not even live in the district; you have a national support network, national name recognition and considerably more resources than I. While it is certainly too late for you to exit the presidential contest this year and begin a congressional race, I hope that you may still be willing to consider a congressional run in 2010, utilizing some or all of my plan for bringing the people of your district, and eventually all Americans, into the political process in a much more meaningful way than merely voting.

The main plank of my platform was to develop a path by which every resident in the district could participate directly in discussion and deliberation of the issues; and through a democratic process, reach decisions that will be based on the needs of the people not of corporations; to seek solutions, not quick profits; and to direct their representative in Congress to pursue those solutions, or face a certain defeat in the next election.

My plan might have to be adjusted somewhat to fit the specifics of your district and others, but what I did was divide the district into 16 divisions of between 12 and 19 voting precincts each in such a way that each division was entirely embedded in one county (My district includes six whole counties and portions of two others). If I had been elected, the process would have worked like this:

Twice a year, each precinct would hold a caucus. These would be entirely separate from the partisan caucuses of primary season. Rather, they would be transpartisan, open to every registered voter in the precinct. If a caucus exceeded two hundred participants, it would be subdivided into assemblies of two hundred or fewer. Each caucus (or assembly thereof) would discuss the various issues of concern, and try to achieve some resolutions.

At the end of the session, each caucus would elect four or five delegates using Single Transferable Voting, or some such system that would produce a proportional balance of representation. These delegates would then attend a division assembly, where they would each bring forth the resolutions passed by their precincts. When possible, several resolutions might be combined into a compromise resolution. Again, after their deliberations, they would elect delegates to a district assembly.

The district assembly would meet at least once per month until the next one was elected (roughly six months), and would serve as the advisory committee to the Congressional Representative. In addition to their monthly deliberative sessions, they would also hold an open hearing each month for residents to express their concerns on issues that might arise or change between precinct assemblies.

This process would provide a way for voters to participate directly in discussions and deliberations that could actually affect the way their representative votes in Congress, a more meaningful access path to their representative than letters or phone calls, and would create an organizational structure that citizens could use to oversee their representative, apply political pressure, and if necessary, choose and elect someone else who would be more responsive to the people’s concerns.

Of course, none of the career politicians who currently inhabit our Congress is likely to initiate such a plan, and despite the best efforts of myself and the state and county Green Party organizations, we were unable to provide this opportunity to move closer to democracy here in Texas. I can think of no person besides you who might be both willing and likely to succeed in such a venture. I know that running for the presidency in some sense give you a chance to talk about crucial issues on a national stage, but more and more, you are being shut out from that national stage, despite of, or perhaps because of your presidential bids. This would give you a chance to set in motion a real process of democratization that the corporate media could not stop.

Ideally, if you win and establish these democratic assemblies in your district, it will inspire the residents of other districts to organize in similar fashion and develop a Congress that is entirely accountable to the people. Perhaps that will eventually lead to amending our constitution to enshrine such democracy into our political system officially, and make even more democratic progress, like allowing the people the ability to recall a representative in mid-term. I sincerely hope you will choose to use the popularity and other resources you have won over the years to give the American people one more gift. I am opening the door, but you must step through it. Welcome to democracy.

In pursuit of liberty and justice for all

Even with the progress our society has made in 221 years since the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787, we are still far from achieving the lofty goals laid out in the Preamble, or reiterated in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“government of the people, by the people and for the people”) or the Pledge of Allegiance (“liberty and justice for all”). Our government has been usurped by corporate lobbyists, and a number of other special interest groups, none of which are synonymous with “we the people.” I contend that the only way to achieve these goals is for power to rest with “all” rather than the select few. This is the essence of democracy, and it is why I am an advocate for a more democratic system of governance.

One of the arguments against democracy is that it can be inefficient. However, there is also an argument to be made that democracy can be more efficient than any other form of government in implementing policy and law. This is because when there is broader participation in making a decision, there is also greater acceptance of the decision that is eventually reached, making implementation of the law or policy more efficient and effective.

Another argument often leveled against democracy is that it can lead to tyranny by the majority; however, a truly democratic process involves all perspectives in any debate and ensures that no viewpoint is left out, thus making it less likely that any minority will be tyrannized by the result. In fact, it is a system such as our current two-party system with winner-take-all districts that leaves significant segments of the population out of virtually every decision and results in the marginalization of many minorities.

Of course, marginalization, especially when it becomes systematic, leads to social degradation, which hurts even those who benefit politically and/or economically from the inequalities of the system.
Thus, it is in everyone’s best long-term interest to pursue democracy and justice.

To that end, I suggest that we need to change the following undemocratic aspects of our constitution.

I. The Presidency

First and foremost, we must abolish the most undemocratic aspect of our political system. In the presidency, our constitution gives one single individual tremendous power, including the power to:

  • veto legislation passed by both houses of Congress
  • appoint all federal judges to any vacancies occurring during his term
  • appoint and direct the heads of the various executive departments, as well as ambassadors
  • be the chief commander of all national military forces
  • issue Executive Orders

These are not the sum of all powers of the president, but they are sufficient to point out the tremendous power invested in one individual, who is not required to deliberate with anyone in reaching decisions on these matters. Indeed, there are checks on three of these, as Congress can override a veto, and the Senate must confirm appointments of judges and executive officers. However, empirical evidence shows us that presidential vetoes are only overridden 5% of the time. Worse, consider the case of Executive Orders.  If Congress were to attempt to supersede an executive order by passing a law, the president would have the power to veto that bill and force Congress to achieve a supermajority in both houses.  Obviously, the president has a stronger position in regard to legislation than does the legislative branch of government.  That is unacceptable in even a pseudo-democracy such as we have.  Furthermore, while the Senate may refuse to confirm an appointee, it has no power to direct the president’s next choice, and if they end their session without confirming an appointment, the president can make a “recess appointment” thereby temporarily sidestepping the need for Senate confirmation.   Thus, in all these cases, the power of the president far outweighs the power of Congress. And while there are problems with how we elect our Congress that make it less than ideally democratic, it is nevertheless a far more democratic body than the office of the president, held by a single individual. If one of these should have more power, it should be Congress.

In the place of the president, we should create some sort of executive council. Perhaps we might retain the term Cabinet for the interdepartmental federal executive council. Rather than a nationwide election in which the issues are subverted by personality and marketing, we should institute a more deliberative but representative process for selecting those who will serve in the top offices of the executive. Furthermore, rather than individuals serving as the chief officers of each department (Secretaries), I suggest that each department should have a small deliberative body of four or five individuals making executive decisions (Secretariats?). Each of these Secretariats should be chosen in a way that will allow for some degree of proportional representation of the American population in each department rather than the one-party executive we have today. One member of each Secretariat should serve on the Cabinet, and that responsibility should rotate among the members of each Secretariat every year, so that no individual will have too much influence on the federal executive. The Cabinet should be a body that will deliberate on behalf of the American people with continuity from one to the next, instead of being dominated by any individual or party with distinct “administrations” and often dramatic shifts in policy between them.

In terms of the selection process, I suggest some sort of random selection process of citizens that will guarantee that every political viewpoint, age group, gender and gender identity, race, sexual preference, and socioeconomic class will be represented proportionally. These citizens would then evaluate candidates for executive and judicial positions. I suggest that they be divided into three groups. The first and largest group would evaluate applications and resumes of candidates, and refer the best choices to the second group, who would nominate the requisite number of candidates for each position, and rank the others referred to them as alternates. Then the third group would evaluate those nominated by the second group, confirming or denying each, and considering alternates for each candidate denied in the order ranked by the second group.

II. The Federal Judiciary

Second, aside from the presidency, the least democratic aspect of our government is that our federal judges serve life terms. Of course, part of the problem with the federal judiciary is also that they are appointed by the president. If we adopted the changes above, this aspect would be less egregious, but I still agree with those constitutional scholars who advocate a single fixed term for federal judges.

One of the primary reasons for life terms for federal judges was to avoid their being dependent on the politics of the day for their positions. Changing the selection process so that they are not appointed by a single partisan individual (president) and confirmed by a political body (Senate) and instead using a system like that described above should also provide some insulation against the politicization of judges, but in any case, a single term of ten to eighteen years should be sufficient to ensure that judges are able to stay above the political fray, and by making the term non-renewable, it should remove any further temptation to succumb to political influence.

Additionally, the duties of the Supreme Court should be divided among several courts. We should have one court whose function is solely to determine the constitutionality of statutes. This Constitutional Court should have two tiers. There should be several regional courts to which a civil or criminal court can refer a case for consideration of constitutionality, and a superior court to which appeals from these regional courts could be made. However, these courts would make no decisions specifically about the outcome of the original case. After the Constitutional Courts had reached their decision, the case would be returned to the original civil or criminal court.

We should also divide the Supreme Court into civil and criminal branches, and each branch should have three coequal courts, each having jurisdiction over three of the circuit courts of appeals. This should allow many more cases to be heard at the highest level, and remove some of what I believe are political reasons for not hearing cases.

III. The Legislative Branch

Undoubtedly, the legislative branch is the most democratic of the three branches of our federal government, yet there are still many problems with it that separate the government from the people. Democracy is citizen self-government, and that goal will only be realized when the citizens and the government are in essence synonymous. The legislative branch is the most likely place to make this a reality.

In order to set out a better design without completely starting over, we need to look at what is wrong with our current system. One is the incredibly disproportionate Senate. Seven cities in the U.S. have over a million residents, and seven states have fewer than a million. Three of those cities are in Texas, and two are in California. Those three largest cities in Texas combined — Houston, San Antonio and Dallas — have a larger population than the six smallest states combined. The two largest cities in California (LA and San Diego) have more people than all seven of the smallest states combined. Nevertheless, Texas gets two senators, and California gets two senators, and so do Wyoming, Vermont, North and South Dakota, Alaska, Delaware and Montana.

Since no legislation can be passed without going through both the House and the Senate, thus giving each house a “veto” over the other one, this gives these small states, and to some extent, their residents, an inordinate amount of power on the national stage. Of course, it is not as egregious as the presidential veto, but it is a problem that should be addressed.

A related problem is that it would seem on the surface that we can do little about this problem, due to the final clause of Article Five of the constitution: “no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” However, we do have some options. There are also other problems related to Article V, including the requirement that amendments be passed by 3/4 of the states. While it is understandable that we would not want 26 states to be able to ratify an amendment to which the other 24 states have principled objections, neither does it seem just that 13 states can prevent the other 37 from fixing what they see as a problem in the constitution. I will address my ideas for remedies to such problems later, or perhaps in a separate post, but the important point now is that these point out that we do not, and can not have equal justice for all Americans with these problems in our constitution.

Another problem with the legislative branch is the way we choose our legislators. That is, our voting systems are not the best ones to insure that the people are best represented in Congress. We have a system in which every state with more than one representative in the House of Representatives uses an individual congressional district for each seat, and each district then can choose only one person to represent all the people who dwell there. It should not be hard to imagine then, especially given that each of our congressional districts has over half a million residents, that one person cannot truly represent all of the people in such a district. While there may be no perfectly representative system, since our constitution was written, several other nations have implemented systems of proportional representation, and have shown such systems to be a better way of representing a broader cross-section of a population.

Some might argue that this problem does not stem from the constitution and therefore does not require a constitutional amendment to fix. We could indeed pass a proportional representation statute that would not violate the existing constitution, but the Preamble sets out the purpose of the constitution as “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Defining the means of selecting representatives to ensure that we provide ourselves the best method of representation possible would seem an important step to most of these ends, while failing to do so has allowed us to continue using an inferior system, even when proportional systems have been in use in many countries for nearly a century.

There are several issues that we must confront with regard to the conduct of elections.  Paper ballots vs. electronic/computerized voting, full public financing, and free and equal media ads are among the most important issues we must face in regard to how we elect officials.   However, I think we can eliminate these issues entirely by changing the way we elect public officials entirely.  By moving to a system wherein we begin our legislative process at the local level in community assemblies of no more than 200 people, and proportionally elect delegates to wider and wider-area assemblies until we select our city, county, district, state and federal representatives through these assemblies.   Using this system, there will be no protracted campaigns.  Elections will be among the members of an assembly based on the proceedings of that assembly, not on advertising or other methods requiring any funds.  In an assembly of 200 or fewer people, the votes will be easy to recount and verify.

One issue that we should address immediately, and which should remain in place even if we move to a system of graduated assemblies is term limits.  Democracy begs that as many of us as possible be afforded the opportunity to participate in some aspect of our government and that we eliminate career politicians.  Therefore, no person should serve more than one consecutive term in any office, and should serve no more than four years in any ten year period.

Conclusion

With so many changes to our constitution needed, and very little chance that career politicians will voluntarily take these steps to bring about a participatory democracy that will eliminate their jobs, we the people will need to bring these changes about by some means not expressly laid out in our current constitution.

I suggest that we should build a national transpartisan organization, a citizens’ union, similar in many ways to a trade union, but open to all Americans regardless of employment status, and negotiating not with employers but with our governmental officials.  When we have built a substantial organization, then we will have the ability to elect new officials to replace those who do not support the democracy we seek with others who will support the constitutional amendments we hope to achieve.  Failing that, we can create the local and graduated assemblies of a future democracy and use those to propose constitutional amendments and pass them on to the national level, and then to call state conventions to ratify them.

Starting Over

Well, my campaign for Congress is now over because the Green party was not able to gather enough petition signatures to achieve ballot access in Texas.  During the campaign, I had neglected this blog to focus on creating and maintaining a campaign website (which was also a WordPress blog).  It is now time for me to return to this one.  I have moved the old position pages into an archive, and will write new pages and posts here to express my current views on where we should be going, and how we might get there.