Nader’s Top Ten

The Year’s Best Books

Read, Then Act

Ralph Nader’s Top Ten Book List for 2009

lists People’s Lobby’s…

  1. Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary: The Story of Ed and Joyce Koupal and the Initiative Process

By Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober.

This husband-wife team “just ordinary people,” in their words, started out powerless and in over a decade, largely in the seventies, built Initiative power to qualify reforms on the California ballot for the popular vote.  A story for the ages that strips away excuses steeped in a sense of powerlessness.  This small but invigorating paperback can be obtained from The People’s Lobby (www.peopleslobby.us) for $15, including shipping.  People’s Lobby, 1817 California St., Unit 201, San Francisco, CA 94109.

http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2009/12/ralph-nader-holiday-reading-list-2009/

http://www.counterpunch.org/nader12252009.html

Others on the list include…

  1. Achieving the Impossible by Lois Marie Gibbs; Published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice…
  2. Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope In An Insecure Age by Steven Hill…
  3. Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in A Two-Party Tyranny by Theresa Amato…
  4. Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times by Edgar S. Cahn…
  5. Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges…
  6. The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis by Josh Kosman…

 

  1. Getting Away With Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law by Christopher H. Pyle…
  2. It Takes A Pillage by Nomi Prins…
  3. Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-09 edited by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff with Project Censored.

At the five day 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy ‘s Jully 31, 2010 evening reception, Ralph Nader was the featured speaker.  The last question Ralph answered during the Citizens in Charge  reception before saying goodnight was:

“In the 70s, you referred to People’s Lobby as the best grassroots organization in the nation.    Why did you say that and what ingredients do you believe People’s Lobby had that may be needed or missing today?”

Ralph then spent several minutes giving glowing tribute to Edwin and Joyce Koupal’s People’s Lobby.  Paraphrasing Ralph, he said …

“People’s Lobby was the most powerful social organizing movement I have seen post World War II…

“The Koupal’s People’s Lobby could organize an initiative almost at will…

“They were opening the Colorado office to push their national initiative idea…

“At this Global Conference on Direct Democracy, you should be studying their little blue book (Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary by Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober) and committing the details of that book to your efforts…”

Koupal Tribute

 The drive toward a national initiative process

By Ralph Nader

Claremont Courier, November 27, 1974 updated by Nader in 2002 for Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary.

Ed and Joyce Koupal, the indefatigable leaders of the People’s Lobby in California, thought Americans should rediscover those mechanisms of self-government–the initiative, the recall and the referendum, and they took their skilled signature-gathering experience nationwide to build support for a constitutional amendment establishing a national initiative and national recall.

In 1974 the Koupals were instrumental in the passage of the California initiative known as Proposition 9, the Political Reform Act providing for state campaign spending limits, disclosure of any potential conflict of interest by public officials, regulation of lobbyists and other “clean government” reforms.  In an expression of dismay over corrupt politics, Proposition 9 was passed overwhelmingly by over 3 million Californians.

Notice that it was the people who directly wrote and passed this state law, not the state legislature.  This is what an “initiative” involves — a process by which, ‘through petitions, a prescribed number of people may write proposed laws for direct submission to the voters.  Over half a million Californians signed the petition that placed Proposition 9 on the ballot.

In 1974 twenty-two states had a statewide initiative; 25 states had a statewide referendum (the process by which voters may repeal or approve a bill passed by the state legislature); 14 states had a statewide recall (the process by which voters may remove or retain an elected official).

These direct democracy measures were largely passed during the Populist-Progressive period of American history around the turn of and first decade of this century.  But they were dormant in most states, unused and almost forgotten by most citizens.  The Koupals wanted them revived to bring back democratic accountability to the people and make elected officials more accountable be­tween elections.

For almost a decade prior to 1974, the Koupals, operating out of their small print shop, perfected techniques of signature gathering.  They could marshal 10,000 volunteers in California almost immediately for a petition drive to get a measure on the state ballot.

In the 1970’s they also believed that what had been increasingly good for California should be good for America.  They wanted to test “whether the few, corporate and government organizations which hold so much of the country’s power can stand democracy in action — old-fashioned style.

Their proposed 27th Amendment to the Constitution back then read:

“The people of the USA reserve to themselves the power of the initiative.  The initiative is the power of the electors to propose laws and to adopt or reject them.  An initiative measure may not be submitted to alter or amend the Constitution of ‘the US.

“Every elected officer of the US may be removed from office at any time by the electors meeting the qualifications to vote in their state, through the procedure and in the manner herein provided for, which procedure shall be known as a vote of confidence, and is in addition to any other method of removal provided by law.”

One way a democracy withers away is by excessive delegation of citizen rights and powers to remote and unaccountable businesses and government bureaucracies.  To the extent that special interest groups buy, rent, misuse or manipulate elected or appointed government officials, democracy is overridden.

The revival of the initiative, referendum and recall in states that provide for them, the passage of similar measures in other states, and the adoption of a national initiative and recall would reduce citizen apathy and quicken citizen involvement in public matters.

The Koupals worked indefatigably and selflessly to put the people back into democracy.  More than anyone else they revitalized the use of the initiative, referendum and recall and put these vital citizen tools back into the mainstream of state politics.  They exemplified the extraordinary citizen’s citizen.”

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *