|Published in Marin Independent Journal, Sunday, January 24, 1999A
U.S. initiative can give us more clout
INCESSANTLY, CONGRESSIONAL phones rang, faxes and e-mails flew. Americans thundered not over a maiming Asian war, all illegally conducted Central American war, or political party robbery and cover-up.
Nope, America responded to a soap opera splitting the G-string over the dictionary definition of’ “sexual relations.”A zealous attack on a handful of sexual foreplays inspired most experienced Americans to say, “Let it lie.”
That, however, didn’t stop a constitutional crisis over our representatives’ understanding of “’high crimes and misdemeanors.”Explicitly revealing the sex lives of public figures has, however, advanced sex education well beyond the doll-faced Ken and Barbie level.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. Supporters of a bifocaled and grown Ken named Starr have long opposed sex education in schools, yet they stand erectly by their man as he unzips what amounts to a $50 million sex curriculum that wows kids.
The thunderous debate should:
¨ Remind most Americans that common sense is not a prerequisite for holding office.
¨ Continue chipping away at the respect held for officeholders.
¨ Prepare America for a more European sexual at-tirade or a McCarthyist excursion into the personal lives of at least public officials.
¨ Make Americans wonder — if polls and communiques are ineffective in influencing our representatives: What additional tool will America need to make government more responsive?
With CNN, 24-hour radio and television news and talk shows, online interactive news, chat rooms, e-mail discourses, downloading government and expert reports, instant books, sophisticated surveys, hard and electronic newspapers and magazines, Americans can validly wonder if today’s concerned and involved citizen can be more aware of issues than many elected representatives are.
Can it be that since our representatives’ work (talking to each other in endless committees and to their special-interest funders) deprives them of viewing TV soap operas, they now strain to create their own titillating soap rather than address the public’s needs?
A KGO radio talk-show caller recently said, “Let’s recall these representatives who are so intent on impeachment when we, the people, don’t want them doing that.”
The host replied that he didn’t think recalling U.S. representatives is possible. He is right. The people have the right to recall, referendum and initiative in about half the states including California, but not on the national level.
Perhaps this whole unbuyable soap-opera script will move the country closer to enacting a National Initiative, Referendum and Recall. If Congress feels that Social Security, health care, banking and educational reform, homelessness, poverty, food stamps, toxic cleanup, space exploration, balanced budgets, tax reform, fair trade, trade imbalances, jobs, drugs, crimes, merger mania, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Russia’s plutonium stockpile, national and world economy, foreign aid, improvement of air, water and food quality, military budgeting and enhancements are not as important as arguing over a dismissed case of alleged ‘sex-harassment and a definition of sex, then perhaps Americans ought to add more legislative options to their firsthand powers.
In an age when technology has put more Options in people’s laps and laptops — from buying to investing in education — perhaps it’s time to do the same with our democratic government.
Would putting the tools of national initiative, referendum and recall in the hands of citizens across the country do more to raise the IQ level of our nation and its elected representatives?
Such a debate may find support from both sides of the impeachment aisle. For those who think Congress can’t think straight, a U.S. Initiative, Referendum and Recall offers representative government yet another tool to increase its responsiveness.
For those fundamentalists who want to purify America’s sexy and lying ways, it offers a mechanism whereby dedication, hard work and their national organization can produce initiatives, recalls and referenda that further their own agenda.
Dwayne Hunn, who lives in Mill Valley, works with and sits on the boards of People’s Lobby, dedicated to educating citizens on initiative, political and economic issues, and of Philadelphia II, dedicated to implementing the U.S. Initiative.