Domestic Political Considerations
History demonstrates that the legislature has been willing to
ignore the wishes of the electorate in the matter of military
issues. The propaganda, behind-the-scenes dealing, and monetary
advantages to their respective campaigns have consistently
induced legislators to ignore their commitment to the will of
their constituents. Voter dissatisfaction is growing.
While popular opinion thinks we are in a conservative long-range
trend, this opinion is subject to the conservative propaganda
machine and ignores the underlying pitfall of no mandate. When
those in power have continually decreasing voter participation,
they ultimately have no mandate and are vulnerable. It is only a
matter of time until someone or something puts the '60's
generation overwhelmingly in the polls. At that point, politics
in America will change forever.
How to get there is the focus of this paper.
In America, low voter participation allows the majority sentiment
to get lost in the shuffle at the policymaking table. Only some
50% of those eligible to vote register. Roughly 50% of those
don't come out on election day. The remaining 25% of the voting
eligibles are split about in half, Democrats and Republicans.
One side wins and one side loses, leaving l3% or l4% of the
people deciding who runs the government, often against the
majority's wishes and/or interests. The key to understanding
here lies in recognizing the motivations of the 75% non-voting
demographic group, as well as the registered voters.
When registered voters are broken down into demographic groups,
the likelihood of victory in 1996 can be clearly seen. Among
registered voters, three distinct groups are defined.
Group 1) Those diametrically opposed to the elimination of
nuclear weapons because they believe it would be a detriment to
Group 2) Those essentially opposed to nuclear weapons, but they
override their moral considerations on the perceived threat from
opponents who have nuclear capability.
Group 3) Those who are diametrically opposed to nuclear weapons
on moral and/or scientific grounds.
Groups 1 and 3 are quite fixed in their positions. However, in
order to keep the weapons, Group 1 is entirely dependent on a
majority of Group 2's support. Hence a majority of Group 2 must
feel that national security considerations outweigh their moral
beliefs against nuclear weapons before they will justify the
weapons and join with Group 1 to become the overall majority.
Ironically, Group 2 is also a natural ally of Group 3. Group 1
has control of the media, the government, and therefore,
information. Group 1, utilizing control of information, has made
Group 2 believe they are under threat and should override their
moral beliefs. The primary threat used by Group 1: the
possession of nuclear weapons by its adversaries.
The bi-national nature of Proposition One and contemporary
history are whittling away at the base of Group 2's support for
Group 1. To prevail in 1996, Proposition One will need to
persuade only a bare majority of its natural ally, Group 2, to
join Group 3. That percentage is virtually assured. Even during
the height of the Cold War's "Evil Empire" rhetoric, a majority
of Group 2 cast its vote in support of the Freeze Initiative, or
with Group 3.
We believe there are two primary groups among the non-voting
public. One of these groups is apathetic. What happens in the
policy arena of the country does not interest them. It is
unknown to what degree this group will get involved in the
The other group is part of an ongoing political struggle
beginning during the Vietnam war period. The accomplishments of
this group, both in and out of the polls, have only begun. What
is very clear though is that this group is far from apathetic.
Some of the same reasons for non-participation may be common to
both groups. Only the potential for motivation on issues of
broad public concern is in question.
The majority of non-voters are the '60's generation, still
reacting in the drop-out mode. The political actions of this
group have already made a substantial impact on society. They
stopped the Vietnam war, the first time in world history that a
government has been stopped, midstream, in a war by the people's
demand. They won major victories in civil rights. They placed
nuclear arms on the national and ultimately the international
agenda. They placed their issues concerning the environment on
the agenda worldwide. All these successes were accomplished on
the streets -- through protest and demonstrations -- and affected
the rest of the electorate to enact the political side of the
progress thus far made. As yet, this generation has not entered
the polls in any substantial percentage.
Most important is what is known about the breakdown of these two
groups in numbers. At least 2/3 of the overall group are from
the baby-boom generation. It is widely believed that what this
group does in a given election will determine the outcome of that
election, as the typical breakdown is near 50%-50% among
conservatives and progressives.
To affect the overall alleged balance of political power it is
not necessary for a tremendous and catastrophic change to come
about. The secret is to register sympathetic voters. Our target
is a 10% registration increase, which is entirely feasible, once
registration becomes the "thing to do." Other political models
show that even a 30% registration could occur if empowerment is
clearly seen as a likely outcome.
Case in point: No governor had ever been recalled in American
history. In l987-88 the governor of Arizona was ordered to a
recall election. The conventional wisdom deemed the effort
impossible because the electorate had just put him in office.
The centerpiece of The Mecham Watchdog Committee's campaign was
to target the unregistered voter for registration. Early on they
determined that a l0% registration would overwhelmingly defeat
Mecham. They turned in 480,000 signatures, l30,000 more than
Mecham received as votes in the general election that put him in
office. Ultimately 300,000 new voters were registered in a
state with l.5 million eligibles -- a 30% registration increase.
The lesson was clear: give the non-voter a simple procedure
where he/she can have an impact or make a direct change by
signing a paper and pulling a handle, and he/she will take that
option. In the final analysis, it was the empowerment that
caused the massive registration.
Empowerment is the key word in this equation. Should the
non-voters ever see a clear path toward true empowerment, or
direct change at their own hands, they will react. The job of
the polical leaders of the peace and justice community is to make
this connection clearly. We must make it easy for them to
express their agenda.
In each of the individual jurisdictions the committees in the
states should act in concert with a national focus. We create a
political climate through leadership and direction of focus to
register, sign here, and pull the handle.
Initiatives are powerful voter registration tools. Anything that
registers progressive voters serves many purposes on the
The '60's Generation
The establishment wishes to write the '60's generation off as
apathetic. The fact is, apathy and drop-out are very different.
The former is, "I don't care." The latter is just one in a long
line of demonstrations. Primarily, drop-outs believe that
politicians won't enact their concerns. Thus, they believe their
vote will do no good. While the initial stages of the drop-out
mode (circa l970) came about due to the drop-outs' substantial
minority position, some have long been aware that "drop-out" was
actually a demonstration and a "bide your time."
Most carrying on the demonstration of the drop-out mode don't
realize the basis and history of the drop-out decisions.
Nonetheless, around l987 the drop-outs outlived the preceding
generation, passing a demographic point where they became the
majority. An unorganized majority, but a majority just the same.
If our analysis of the "baby-boom" non-voter is anywhere near
correct, when this group sees the potential for real change, real
empowerment, in their own hands, they will act swiftly.
The last time (and really the only time since Vietnam) the peace
and justice community put their collective minds together and
acted in unity at the ballot box, they demonstrated what could be
done. During the height of the "evil empire" rhetoric the Freeze
Initiative won overwhelmingly. This committee takes the position
that it's time to stop acting like a minority, and accept the
responsibility that is ours alone to bear.
With the 1992 election the baby-boom political tug-of-war began
in earnest, when a 47-year-old Democrat took the White House
from the World War II vet set. A flock of post-WWII Republicans
swept into Congress in 1994 on an illogical platform, no doubt
concocted by their elders, with that age-old promise to improve
the economy by increasing defense spending while decreasing
taxes, and somehoe balancing the multi-trillion dollar budget
deficit at the same time.
The old way doesn't work, of course. Political promises are
worthless if not grounded in logic and law. Shoring up the
defense industries will not save the economy. Converting them
Proposition One is empowerment. If indeed we should wish to get
rid of nuclear weapons, we submit there is only one way.
Demonstrate the sovereign power of the people: a weight-of-law
petition. This plan takes maximum advantage of the provisions
placed in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. It gives the
electorate, who may be the only ones who would get rid of these
weapons, the maximum "say so."
Written by Joseph Vigorito, 1991, (Mecham Watchdog Committee)
Updated April 1995