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Exploring Paths to the People’s Sovereignty: the hacp solution
The question is whether a system can be defined as a democracy when the People are not sovereign. The US is a system where organized money is dominant, not the people. The 28th Amendment we recommend should impose public financing of elections as the only source of campaign finance, exclusive of all other forms, in order to eliminate the influence of PAC’s, lobbyists and all types of “special interests” on representatives and policymakers. This is based on current public perception that Washington is corrupt and untrustfull, and that the American regime is undemocratic. Even current pollsters’ independence is doubtful. The people should create a High Authority for the Consultation of the People…
By Ndzana Seme
NEW YORK 11/21/2006 - The US political system is a democracy in which the People are not sovereign and that is the matter. The question is whether a system can be defined as a democracy when the People are not sovereign.
Sovereignty is defined as the supreme authority. The sovereign is the authority that legally detains political power (individual, assembly or the people), or the person who exercises the supreme power (king, monarch, emperor). The sovereign’s decisions are without possibility of appeal. The sovereign is the supreme judge, the supreme lawmaker, the supreme commander of the people and of the goods.
The US is a system where organized money is dominant as it competes with and often opposes the people in all sovereign domains, including law making (influence on representatives), law interpretation (influence on judges with efficient the backing of hired lawyers and “experts”) and law implementation (influence on the government). Law making and law implementation are the means that the sovereign uses the exercise its supreme power. Control of the people over law making, law implementation and law interpretation is the main condition of democracy.
In the American system, sovereignty is in the hands of the US president, state governors and their proxies, of judges, of elected representatives, and of the “organized money” that influences all of them; which is called representative democracy.
No matter how it is called, the facts show that Americans themselves do not feel that they have any sovereign powers since it is difficult for them to get their voice heard. Elections do not convince them that they are sovereign since about 50% of citizens abstained to vote these last decades. Only 56% of North Americans think elections are free and fair, according to BBC/Gallup International Voice of the People 2005 poll.
Representative democracy is a nice and acceptable way to say a regime is republican. Actually, a republican regime is cohabitation between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Republicanism is not democracy. Therefore, “representative democracy” is not democracy.
Arguments for a constitutional amendment barring political corruption
Because of the American People’s political division into two opposing political wings – democrats also labeled liberals and republicans also labeled conservatives -, and since amending the Constitution can be an arduous process, requiring agreement by many different segments of society and the government, totally changing the system into a democratic system has historically proved to be quite impossible.
At least two notorious failed constitution amendments can be mentioned to show this difficulty. The 1926 Child Labor Amendment granting Congress the power to regulate the labor of children under the age of 18 is still outstanding, having been ratified only by 28 states. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) whose first section states "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." It was intended to place into law the equality of men and women. It was sent to the states in March, 1972. The original seven year deadline was extended to ten years. It expired unratified in 1982.
The 17th Amendment was a democratic victory as the Senatorial selection system became fraught with problems, with consecutive state legislatures sending different Senators to Congress, forcing the Senate to arrange who would be the qualified candidate, and with a selection system that was corrupted by bribery and corruption. In several states, the selection of Senators was left to the people in referenda, after which the legislature approved the people's choice and sent the elected to the Senate. The 17th Amendment solved all the ambiguity with a simple premise - the Senators would be chosen by the people, just as Representatives are.
Therefore, efficient democratic advocacy should only aim at making the system more democratic, in the image of the 17th Amendment, which is not a panacea but a compromise that brought government closer to the people.
The 17th Amendment had originated partly because one of the most common critiques of the Constitution Framers(1) is that the government they created is, in many ways, notably its design, undemocratic. Two current examples of the American system’s undemocratic design are the electoral college (by which Americans elect the president) and the appointment of judges.
The 28th Amendment we recommend should impose public financing of elections as the only source of campaign finance, exclusive of all other forms. This is based on current public perception that Washington is corrupt and untrustfull, and that the American regime is undemocratic. As a means to root out corruption, the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should aim at eliminating the influence of PAC’s, lobbyists and all types of “special interests” on the people’s representatives and policymakers.
In fact, in the wake of lobbyist scandals, the soaring costs of election campaigns, and discontent with Washington over the cost of the war on Iraq, the Katrina disaster and lies used to engage the country into war, corruption is the main issue the American people want to be solved.
According to The 2006 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, the United States has slipped three notches to 20th rank out of 163 countries polled, with a score of 7.3 (2), far behind cleaner countries like Finland, New Zealand and even Singapore. This rank is a shame to the American people who pride themselves to be the leading nation in the Western hemisphere and in the world, the benchmark of democracy and the best place on Earth.
Washington is also perceived by the people as untrustfull. The Gallup International Voice of the People 2005 poll for the BBC World Service survey found that only 12% of the people in North America would give more power to politicians, preferring instead religious leaders (34%).
In a recent nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center, only 40% of Americans said they can trust their government at least most of the time, 59% saying only sometimes or never. Since the era of Vietnam and Watergate, a majority of Americans have said they can seldom trust the government to do the right thing. A poll of 1,000 Americans ages 15 to 25 by Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake found that those who say they trust the government to do the right thing a lot or some of the time fell from 62% in January 2002 to 50% in November 2003.
The American regime is undemocratic. Only 35% of the people polled in North America by BBC/Gallup International also think they are governed by the will of the people. There is little doubt that the U.S. design of government is undemocratic, which is why Americans do not view their government as a tool created by the people for the people, as it normally should be viewed in a democracy. Things couldn’t be otherwise since Constitution framers were all wealthy individuals or, to say the least, from upper classes.
Current pollsters’ independence is doubtful
So far, we have used results of surveys by pollsters, some of which are non profit organizations and some of which are private organizations or individuals.
"If democracy is supposed to be based on the will of the people, then somebody should go out and find out what that will is." These words from founder Dr. George Gallup have become the Gallup organization’s mission.
But the fundamental question is should the people trust “somebody” to go out and find what the will of the people is. If the people do not trust politicians they elect to office, why would they trust individuals who pledge to be as “independent” as their organization’s founder was?
“If politicians and special interests have polls to guide them in pursuing their interests, the voters should have polls as well”, Dr George Gallup also said.
However, with Dr. James Clifton’s Selection Research Inc merging with Gallup in 1988 and the boom in private business consulting contracts, including the famous “psychologist's laboratory” and its “Strengths-Based Psychology”, with a “focus on educating, informing, and advising the 1 million most influential people who lead, mentor, and determine the futures of the remaining 6 billion people who inhabit Earth” there is enough room for doubt that voters “have” current Gallup polls.
There is even less doubt that Gallup’s lack of focus on issues most important to the American people is motivated by their positioning in the profit-yielding side, the side of “leaders” instead of the people. These issues include the working people’s actual worries about disproportionate powers granted employers on vital domains such as salaries, hiring, leaves, maternity benefits, health care, employment or salary discrimination, and other preoccupying issues such as housing discrimination, loan discrimination, incidence of poverty, racism and discrimination on crime and violence, corruption both in government and in business, public assistance’s social shortfalls, etc.
Since Gallup is unable to maintain its main principle dear to George Gallup, namely “independence”, notably because it is now driven by profits and contracts are the means par excellence special interests use to fund organizations, why would the people trust all the other various pollsters who advertise each one as independent?
Making the Voice off the People Sovereign
Instead of accepting the role of “somebody” going out and finding out what the will of the people is, playing so without control on the field of the people’s sovereignty, the people should create an organization in charge of collecting and delivering their expression. Independently from the government and from the “organized money”, the people should create a High Authority for the Consultation of the People (HACP).
The HACP would fill current missions of the FEC (3), in addition to the important missions of a national pollster in terms of collecting and publishing the people’s expression.
The HACP would be a specialized agency independent of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, and of all forms of private and partisan interests. Its mission would be to collecting, treating, interpreting and publishing the People’s opinions on all matters.
The results of HACP polls or other forms of public consultations would be used by the people themselves to give directions as to the issues and domains that should be legislated, by the legislative power within the framework of their mission of making laws, by the executive power in their law implementation missions, by the judicial branch in their law interpretation mission, or by the press in their reports, investigations and analyses that would clarify these results and cause new enlightening debates.
Popular opinions revealed by the HACP would especially have a fundamental role to play in the necessary reorganization of political competition. Contrary to current system where political parties and other lobbyists use to pull from their magic hat the rabbit candidate, who thereafter would take all his/her time to make his/her political program known during various campaign speeches, choosing a problem here and picking a popular expectation there, while giving up whole patches of social expectations, especially avoiding to run up against his/her hidden principals’ interests and drawing instead policies supporting these interests, in a cynical game of hide-and-seek where the people are always losers, a democratic system would function in the reverse.
The HACP indeed gives the opportunity to eliminate political charlatans currently populating the republican arena, by opening the path to political competition only to the most deserving among citizens, and by placing the people as the source and the center of any political competition.
By making popular opinions on various topics public and totally access free, the HACP would produce the raw materials that would be used as a basis for all political competition. The candidate to representation would be subjected to showing to the public that he/she has a plan to solving ALL the problems and popular concerns involved, which are the object of the political competition. He/she would not thus benefit the freedom to choose the problems to be evoked during campaigns. These problems would clearly be known and the people would expect to be convinced that the program of solutions presented by the candidate is the most realistic and the best among other competing programs.
The HACP would organize surveys to collect popular opinion on all topics, would organize and ensure management of direct popular consultations on the basis of opinions received during its surveys and by any other means, and would organize and carry out elections and referenda.
HACP personnel would be composed of public policy experts, researchers and scientists, communication experts, public policy employees, and administrative and spot personnel, whose neutrality and independence in the fields of politics, commerce and conflicting interests should not be doubtful.
To ensure total independence of the HACP personnel, the people - not the executive, the legislative or the judiciary branch - should set the culture that is appropriate to lead the special institution.
For centuries, using the state as the best scapegoat, special interests in their struggle against the people’s sovereignty have always presented the government as the source of all evils.
Totally excluding the fact that government is the only commonwealth owned by the people in a democracy - which means an insult to the government is an insult to the people, since the people is the ultimate responsible of their government’s failures- and also the fact that government is actually irreplaceable in its rule of producing public goods and services, special interests have always argued that government is the enemy of business and of the people.
Most citizens believe such a blurred presentation of the people’s commonwealth, often forgetting that it’s their democratic responsibility to change the state or government design for the better. The HACP proposition is a tool that would help the people to assume their democratic responsibility by solving the corruption canker currently conveying all perils.
1 They were 57, including 24 lawyers, 10 merchants, 6 politicians, 2 doctors, 1 soldiers, 1 educator, 1 teacher, 1 inventor and 1 farmer.
2 The scores range from 10.0 (squeaky clean) to 0.0 (highly corrupt). A score of 5.0 is considered as the borderline figure distinguishing countries that do and do not have a serious corruption problem.
3 In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.
©2003 The African Independent, Inc. All rights to republication are reserved.