Mike Gravel: Please help fund a direct democracy documentary

Today Mike Gravel posted a video to Youtube promoting a November 10th money bomb to fund a documentary about The National Initiative for Democracy, a plan for national ballot initiatives.  A few days ago, a kind of teaser trailer was also posted on Mike Gravel’s Youtube channel.  Both are below, along with a transcript from the one featuring Senator Gravel.

This is Mike Gravel, the chairman of The Democracy Foundation. On November 10th, we are going to be organizing a money bomb to try and raise money à la Ron Paul. We’re not deluding ourselves that we’re raising the millions, but we need to raise enough money to pay some videographers to be able to do a documentary on the National Initiative and how it will empower the American people to be able to vote on the policy issues that affect their lives, once it’s in place.

The National Initiative is very different from the initiative process that we have in the twenty four states around the country. Those states – you just qualify, everybody throws money at it, and the people vote. That is not a good way to make law. Law requires a deliberative process where you have hearings, markups, proper communications, and the like. And in that way, the people can make laws and properly deliberate the policy issues that affect their lives. And that’s what the National Initiative will be – it’s a meta-tool which we put in the hands of the people, so they will be able to then have an affect on how they are governed. It will be the first time that people will have a government “by the people,” because the people will become lawmakers.

The definition of freedom is the participation in power. Power in representative government is lawmaking. If you don’t make the laws, all you can do is obey the law or go to jail. And so if you really want to have freedom, what we have to do is to make ourselves lawmakers. And the only tool available to do that is the National Initiative. And this is a tool that will not be enacted by representative government, because it dilutes their power and they’re not about to empower the people.

And that’s the reason why we have been struggling with an organization called The National Initiative for Democracy, sponsored by The Democracy Foundation. And so that’s the reason why we’re making an appeal now for your help, to donate whatever you can afford so that we can pay for this documentary and then use this documentary as a device to inform people so that they’ll be aware of the potential of the National Initiative as a tool to empower them to have a more meaningful role in the governing of their lives.

I hope that you will be generous and give whatever you can. Thank you – thank you very, very much.

(Full disclosure:  I, Ross Levin, helped Mike Gravel record this and post it to Youtube.  I am also helping with the production of the documentary and the promotion of the money bomb.)

36 thoughts on “Mike Gravel: Please help fund a direct democracy documentary

  1. Holden

    Direct Democracy is a wretched idea. Talk about a philosophy completely counter-intuitive to the individualism of libertarianism.

    The vote of the masses outweighs the rights of the individual!

    Look, government is in bad shape and the crooks in Washington constantly turn a deaf ear to their constituents. Direct Democracy is only change the hands in which tyranny resides.

    Gravel was never a good fit for the Libertarian Party.

  2. Robert Milnes

    Gravel mentions a moneybomb fundraising effort & refers to Ron Paul. I think that is what brought him to the LP last year. He saw Paul’s exceptional campaign fundraising,a product of the anti-war right. & also Obama’s due largely to the anti-war left. Gravel saw a possible opening for the LP nomination as Paul was a GOP, not an LP. I do not think he realized & still probably doesn’t, the possible winning fusion ticket with enough ballot access he almost had. Simply if he had gotten the LP nomination instead of Barr & Ruwart had accepted the vp position, it could have taken off in the polls. But no. The Losertarians had their guy. & Ruwart stayed pure.

  3. citizen1

    I have heard Gravel say that the founding fathers supported this idea. I would be interested in how he supports this idea but not in donating to this project.

  4. Jeremy Young

    Gravel’s idea is primarily derived from the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, yes, was not a very libertarian philosopher. That said, Gravel was a good fit for the LP in certain ways, and more importantly, he’s a massively bad fit for any existing political party. He’s proposing a radical reorganization of American government along lines that have never been tried before in human history (you can claim it’s based on Athenian democracy, but Montesquieu explains very well why that doesn’t work in a huge continent-sized country).

    I don’t agree with Gravel, but I find him a bracing and deeply original thinker, and I admire his courage in not being afraid to propose something that is truly radical and that will win him no friends from any established philosophies. For someone who was once a political hotshot up-and-comer, it’s been a long, strange road indeed. But Gravel is one of our most interesting political figures, and I think it’s a damn shame he doesn’t get more media attention these days.

  5. libertariangirl

    Nevada voted for Gravel at Nat Con and heres why. He may not be entirely Libertarian but:
    A . he has a history of fighting against government.
    B. he promised us as a candidate he would follow our platform.
    C. we felt the LP has been disproportionately pulling from the right and we thought Gravel could bring in a big pull from left.
    D. Having already been in the big debates we thought he would have an easier time being included.

  6. citizen1

    Ross, I was not clear I meant the contention that the founding fathers support the idea. I do not know of any evidence that there was much support for this. I do recall some quotes against direct democracy.

  7. Robert Milnes

    lg, @7, i didn’t know that. I assumed the lpnv blindly knee jerked support for rootie toot toot & Bann bobb barr. I’m pleasantly surprised. Big pull to the left indeed. All the way to the White House -IF Sweet Mary sullied up here purity & went vp. You see, it would’ve been GENUINE anti war Gravel/Ruwart fusion ticket WITH enough ballot access to win v. FAKE progressive liberal democrats Obama/Biden v. hawks Mccain/Palin v Nader/Gonzales enough ballot access but no fusion ticket v. McKinney/Clemente barely enough ballot access no fusion ticket. Gravel/Ruwart would have increasingly polled & won.

  8. Ross Levin Post author

    Some were against direct democracy, some were for it. Thomas Jefferson has many supportive quotes for it, Washington said something like initiative and referenda is the most advanced form of government, I believe George Mason was largely in favor of it. I can’t find the exact quotes…I’m sorry about that. But basically opinion was mixed – some liked it and some didn’t. In Rhode Island they actually used direct democracy to ratify the constitution at first, although the people wouldn’t ratify it.

  9. tiradefaction

    Milnes, I doubt a Gravel/Ruwart ticket would have “won”. No one’s ever heard of Ruwart and Gravel did terrible in the Democratic Primary (that’s not his fault of course, as he was allowed little time in the debates and was only on the ballot in 19 states. My state being one of them, which I voted for him)

  10. Stewart Flood

    #7 above:

    Libertarian Girl is correct in her assessment of Senator Gravel. If he had received our nomination he would have stood by the platform. He has integrity.

    And South Carolina was proud to have had the opportunity to place Senator Gravel in our delegation (by unanimous vote) after hearing that other states he had asked had refused to allow him a seat at the convention.

    I gave him my nomination token. I wanted him in the debate.

    Yes, he is a very interesting figure in American politics — and he should get more attention. While his ideas on a solution to our current political morass differ from those that libertarians would support, we share the common goal of wanting to find a way to stop what the DC power brokers are doing to our nation.

    Remember the Pentagon Papers. He deserves our respect for that, if for nothing else.

  11. Steve

    Gravel is a great man and a big catch for the LP. While I wouldn’t have wanted him as the nominee, I certainly want his voice in the room. I’m with him on the war and the war on drugs but I’m not onboard with the NI4D, still at this point in history its more important for me to see someone standing up and speaking truth to power than it is to be ideologically pure. Godspeed sir!

  12. Thomas L. Knapp

    The counter-offering to “direct democracy” is usually “representative democracy in the context of a constitutional republic with limits on government power,” with the assumption that no such limits would apply to the proffered “direct democracy.”

    If that was the actual choice — limited representative democracy versus unlimited direct democracy — being offered, then sure, the former would be better.

    That’s not, however, the choice being offered. The alleged limits on US government power got knocked on the head, rolled up in the rug and tossed into the back of a locked closet a long time ago.

    Unless the limits can be resuscitated — and that’s a very iffy proposition — then for those unwilling to consider anarchy, there’s something to be said for a system in which a majority of 300 million have to be persuaded, rather than a majority of 535 bribed, to make something happen.

  13. Robert Milnes

    Tom, in other words you support NI4D & have said so in IPR comments & on your blog if I’m not mistaken. & I have stated support for NI4D.///You people just don’t get the potential of a fusion ticket, do you?

  14. Ross Levin Post author

    Tom is a listed endorser of the NI4D, on various places at http://ni4d.us – thanks for speaking out in support of it, Tom. You wisely realize that it’s not a choice of what’s academically the best model of government, but which form of government would work best out of the practical choices for the real world.

  15. Erik Geib

    I actually think Tom was only saying it’s a good choice given the erosion of limits on governmental power, not “out of the practical choices for the real world.” Perhaps I’m naïve to think those limits could be restored (or placed anew), but that was hardly the ringing endorsement y’all have made it sound like.

    Then again, I could always be wrong.

  16. Robert Milnes

    Eric Geib @ 17, yes. At least my endorsement is not my statement that this is the ideal. That would be IMO a form of anarchy with a function based barter system economy. Then again, I could always be wrong.

  17. Dave Schwab

    I’d be happy to pitch in, but at the moment (and after pitching in to a bunch of campaigns recently) I’m a bit tapped out. IOU Mike Gravel (and not just for keeping me out of pointless wars halfway across the world).

  18. Ross Levin Post author

    Much appreciated, Dave!

    Erik – I interpreted Tom’s endorsement as saying that out of the realistic choices for America, this is the best, even if it’s not ideal.

    And everyone else – the money bomb is today! Please donate at http://film.ni4d.us

  19. Erik Geib


    Are you implying then that neither you nor Tom views the restoration or enactment of power restraints as a ‘realistic’ option?

  20. Ross Levin Post author

    No. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “power restraints,” but that’s not the goal of the National Initiative. I’m saying that the NI4D offers the best model for government that is realistically possible in the near future.

    Plus, if you’re looking to limit the power of the federal government, representatives aren’t going to do it – they’re not going to limit their own power. The people have to take the power away from them, and one way to do that is through initiatives.

  21. Erik Geib

    I’m aware of what the NI4D is about, I’m just hoping to clarify what others are construing as Mr. Knapp’s endorsement.

    I’m merely questioning a.) for clarity on Mr. Knapp’s view (as he is a presidential candidate) and b.) why the restoration of power constraints through other means are being inherently dismissed as unrealistic?

    I haven’t offered my personal opinion on the matter, so I’m not sure what the reason is for your tone.

  22. Ross Levin Post author

    I’m not trying to convey a negative tone – sorry if I did.

    I’m just not exactly sure what you mean by “restoration of power constraints.” If you mean limiting the federal government, I just don’t think that representatives will ever willingly give up the huge amount of power they have.

  23. Dave Schwab

    Just saw the Vietnam War documentary ‘Hearts and Minds’ last night. Powerful stuff. We should be grateful to Mike Gravel for having the courage to end the draft and read the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record.

    It’s also striking how dead today’s anti-war movement is compared to those days. Sadly, it seems the threat of being drafted was the main impetus for many to vocally oppose a senseless war.

  24. Don Lake, late at night

    Many of us are more and more silent on the budget killing, ethics destructive, and troop mangling actions of OBAMA’s YOKOHOMA MOMMA’s war as in discouragement! I mean we have seen Baracak elected [with out my Perot, Perot, Nader, Nader, Nader assistance, so don’t blame me and Citizens For A Better Veterans Home!] and with the same ole Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, and foreign policy the only CHANGE with our current Chief Executive is those coins in the sofa cushion[s]!

  25. Thomas L. Knapp


    I endorsed NI4D last year, and see no reason to withdraw that endorsement.

    I don’t consider NI4D, or any other form of government in the nation-state model, “ideal,” but NI4D has more restraints on government power built into it than are operant in the existing system.

    Under NI4D, instead of just handing out campaign contributions and job offers to majorities of 435 US Representatives, 50 US Senators and a President and Vice-President to get a piece of legislation passed, those seeking a new law would have to figure out a way to persuade a majority of the American electorate … TWICE, six months apart.

    Furthermore, if NI4D/”direct democracy” are problematic, then systems derived from them (such as the US system, which bases its alleged legitimacy in “the consent of the governed” and on the claim of speaking for “we the people”) inherit the same problems. Gonna take it, why not take it straight instead of watered down?

  26. Ross Levin Post author

    Tom, the two elections are only for constitutional amendments, iirc. Normal laws just need to pass by a majority in one election (although they’ve got a lengthy process before they can make it to the ballot).

  27. Robert Milnes

    If I was Gravel last year I would’ve been plenty mad too. He gets pittance for contributions compared to counterrevolutionary Ron Paul. Bann Bobb Barr gets the LP nomination over him an insult in more ways than one. & on top of it all he lost out on a possible fusion ticket Gravel/ Ruwart that could have very well won ifit was handled correctly. You all really stuck it to the old man-without lube.

  28. Francis

    Direct democracy sucks. Look at the horrendous direct democracy initiated ballot measures in multiple states that are funded by corporations and fascist nut bags.

  29. Thomas L. Knapp


    You write:

    “Direct democracy sucks.”

    Government in general sucks. Direct democracy sucks more than some other systems in some ways, less that those other systems in others.

    In my opinion, direct democracy in the form specifically provided for in NI4D sucks enough less and in important enough ways than the current system to be worth supporting when it’s proposed as an alternative to that current system.

    The three ways in which it sucks less that are important to me are:

    1) It provides for a lengthy period of deliberation. Congress has developed a nasty habit of slamming stuff through without even reading it, let alone debating it and thinking its implications through.

    2) It doesn’t provide for surprise or surreptitious insertion of extraneous amendments, riders, earmarks, etc.

    3) It will almost certainly take more money, job offers, etc. to bribe an election-swinging portion of the electorate to vote for or against X than it does to bribe a few key congresscritters to facilitate or block passage of X.

    Yes, initiative and referendum has been used to do some bad things (smoking bans, for example). It’s also been used to do some good things (tax limitations, for example).

    The morality of treating democracy as a principle is certainly debatable — but that debate isn’t especially relevant, since to the extent that it is treated as a principle, it is the principle underlying both NI4D and the existing system (both as it is and as constitutionalists claim it should be) in terms of justification. In any conflict between the two, what’s at stake is not principle but process preference.

  30. Coolio

    Did Gravel get any money for his NI4D documentary? I’m guessing he got somewhere between 1 and 5 dollars.

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