Sunday, November 9, 2008

Good Morning and Good Night in America

Now that the elections are over, journalists are trying to drum up interest in the transition, the court intrigue of impending appointments, the personalities of the new DC aristocracy. But most citizens would have none of it. While the punditry will keep up its obsession, the American people, Rip Van Winkle will go back to sleep. And that is not a bad thing. This is our democracy, where citizens are free to go back to their business once they have picked their new president, who should now be free for the next four years to exercise his own judgment on their behalf. We will reassemble again soon enough to judge him, but until then, we wish him good luck and godspeed.

Throughout the late 90s, it became fashionable to decry the disengagement of citizens, the solipsism of citizens living politics vicariously via television and bowling alone. This year we saw that the American people can be awoken and roused to action. When in crisis and dire need, we have demonstrated our ability to rise to the occasion to care, to engage, and to vote. Most times our message is divided and diluted, but once every generation We the People speak with a stikingly clear voice, commanding and responding to a new leader's call for change. This is America, where a revolution can happen every generation, where our covenant with each other is reaffirmed and its meaning redefined.

If we are ever to end the permanent campaign - the pox on American politics - we should embrace and endorse this aspect of representative democracy that permits citizens to go back to their own private affairs and allows our officials to conduct the nation's business. Ours is not a direct democracy in which citizens are asked to approve and to bless every governmental decision to be made; ours is a representative democacy in which the people choose to defer their opinions to the judgment of their elected representatives. This is the paradoxical luxury enjoyed by a democratic people who remain sovereign even as they are governed.

1 comment:

Evan Ravitz said...

Oh yes, the "luxury" of "representatives" who create perpetual war & debt, torture, warrantless spying, bailouts for the hyper wealthy, ad nauseum.

Actually, people in 24 states FORCED legislators to share power with the people with ballot initiatives.

Ballot initiatives are the origin of most reforms, such as women's suffrage (passed in 13 states before Congress went along), direct election of Senators (4 states), publicly financed elections (passed by initiative in 6 of 7 states with them), medical marijuana ( in 9 of 13 states) and increasing minimum wages (in all 6 states that tried in 2006). See for more examples and references. The media have seized on the problem initiatives. They generally kiss up to politicians.

Now we need NATIONAL ballot initiatives to stop government against the people.

The most evolved project for a national hybrid direct/representative democracy is led by former Sen. Mike Gravel. Registered voters can now vote to ratify the National Initiative for Democracy at, much as citizens ratified the Constitution at the Conventions when the Legislatures wouldn't!