Liberally Conservative

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free....... ~Ronald Reagan~

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

President Gravel - Scaring Politicians Everywhere?

Associated Press reported former Democratic senator from Alaska and outspoken critic of the Vietnam War hopes to make a political comeback with a long-shot bid for the presidency in 2008 and a plan to reshape American democracy. Mike Gravel, a 76-year-old self-described maverick, said he wants to give citizens the direct power to make laws based on popular votes, not exclusively through elected members of Congress. "The American people are fed up with representative government. It doesn't work," Gravel said during an interview before his planned announcement. "There's only two venues to address the problem: the government or the people. There is nobody in politics in the last hundred years that has come with an idea to go to the people." Gravel also would replace income taxes with a 23 percent national sales tax. His two-term Senate tenure was notable for his anti-war activity. He led a one-man filibuster to protest the Vietnam-era draft, and read into the Congressional Record 4,100 pages of the 7,000-page leaked document known as the Pentagon Papers in 1971. xxx In 1972, he nominated himself for vice president at the Democratic National Convention, but delegates rejected his candidacy. Gravel left the Senate after losing the 1980 Democratic primary. Gravel led an effort to get a United States Constitutional amendment to allow voter-initiated federal legislation similar to state ballot initiatives. He argued that Americans are able to legislate responsibly, and that the Act and Amendment of his organization would allow American citizens to become "law makers". In June of 2003, Gravel gave a speech on direct democracy at a conference hosted by the Barnes Review, a journal that denies the Holocaust. Gravel later explained he did not know the nature of the group at the time he spoke there and spent only 30 minutes at the event. "You better believe I know that six million Jews were killed. I've been to the Holocaust Museum. I've seen the footage of General Eisenhower touring one of the camps ... They're nutty as loons if they [Carto's group] don't think it happened ... Anyone who denies the Holocaust is patently off their rocker — it's a ridiculous position ... and the idea that the [documentary] films were a hoax is just bullshit," Gravel clarified in an interview with Politics1.com.
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Under Gravels proposal, voters in the United States could do what they do in Switzerland and many U.S. states today: Propose a change in policy, collect signatures or support to show there is serious public interest, and thus create the conditions for a direct national vote on legislation.
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Gregory Fossedal a senior fellow at the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution writes:
Gravel has devoted much of his considerable energy to promoting initiative and referendum at the national level. The effort has little support from professional politicians, who prefer to keep decision-making power in their own hands. Gravel wants to make Election Day possible once every few months. And he would make every American voter, in effect, a member of Congress.
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Republicans, by the way, believe fervently that voters are competent when it comes to such economic matters. But they seem to mistrust people when it comes to giving them this kind of particularity on political decisions. My colleague Ken Brown discovered this when he spoke to journalist John Fund and former Gov. James Gilmore about the Internet -- they're all for it when it comes to buying cars or subscribing to The Wall Street Journal, but highly nervous about letting people commit acts of citizenship there, such as voting on issues.
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Democrats, meanwhile, want "the people" to rule over markets in the economic sphere, but when it comes to politics, they demur. Neither Howard Dean nor John Kerry took advantage of the opportunity to support Gravel's effort.
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Gravel is too extreme for career politicians who are only interested in themselves and the power they can obtain. Having frequent referendums wouldn't really provide more participation by the electorate since so many of the registered voters in this country don't show up to the polls. However, some initiatives have worked in California, letting voters decide over the politicians. His FairTax plan is one we could support.
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Gravel doesn't have a snowballs chance inHadess of winning a nomination for either party but some of his ideas for debate would be interesting. It might open areas of discussion the "regular" politicians would prefer to avoid. Gravel is to extreme for the status quo and won't be taken seriously.

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