Critical Mass and the National Initiative.
Nearly 2,000 activists from across the country descended on Washington D.C. in November 1974. Most came at their own expense. Some came as representatives of powerful utilities and had. to pay $100. to attend Ralph Nader’s dream child, The Critical Mass Conference, seemed to be a success.
What was the purpose of the conference? To Nader it was to a
- Focus media attention on the swelling mass movement
against nuclear power.
- Expand the education process on nuclear power’s
- Exchange ideas on alternative sources of power —
solar, wind, etc.
For two of Nader’s friends and fellow political crusaders of increasing stature, however, the conference became a forum for more.
Ed Koupal, Executive Director of People’s Lobby, and his wife Joyce, formerly of People’s Lobby and now director of Stamp Out Smog, were invited by Nader to speak to the conference on the initiative process. People’s Lobby, having been the prime mover behind California’s successful Proposition 9, the Political Reform Initiative that still has organized labor, big business, politicians and lobbyists in a twitter, can claim more experience with the initiative process than any group in the nation.
Little did the Koupals realize that their experience was to make a national impact at the conference and, finally, with Ralph Nader.
That impact began during Nader’s thirty minute keynote speech in which 2 of the 3 people he paid tribute to were named Koupal. The Koupals were instant celebrities. Their workshops on the initiative process were jammed. And their initiative ideas seemed to offer the first positive tools to activists loaded with facts and dangers but few successes.
An example: A noted academic, speaking to his workshop on the dangers of radiation, continued raising his voice and thus interfering with Koupal’s neighboring workshop session. Koupal, with lungs like a bull, was not to be outdone. Finally, the academic appeared and asked Koupal to keep his voice down, “It interferes with my important teaching session,” said the professor.
“Important,” retorted Koupal. “All you are doing is talking about the dangers of atomic power plants. Stuff we all know. We’re learning how to get a 100,000 signatures and stop those plants from being built. That makes these people 100,000 times as important as you.”
A cheer went up from Koupal’s class. Then everyone in the professor’s class came to hear Koupal.
The importance of the initiative process is just dawning on some of those people. It has finally fully dawned on Ralph Nader, and he is ready to put it on many more people.
Those who have worked with Nader know he is barraged daily with exciting ideas, and that he attests belief in many of them. He does not, however, help carry many of those ideas, since he already has so many that are pressing and necessary.
The People’s Lobby goal of a national campaign for a constitutional amendment to institute the national initiative, to coincide with the 76 presidential elections and a nuclear moratorium, has hit Nader’s elusive ‘push button.’ Nader has tabulated the costs and benefits and decided to add the national initiative to his list of crusades.
After their times together on the Mike Douglas Show, in Washington D.C., and in California, the Koupals have finally elicited a pledge of financial aid from Nader to help make the 27th .Amendment — A National Initiative and Recall — a reality. Nader has made sure, however, that the Koupals raise their share. He has informed his booking agent to get the Koupals honorariums and out on the campaign trail.
Harper’s Weekly Staff
Submission 12-8-74 From Dwayne Hunn