The 2008 Election
Mike Gravel is a former Democratic United States Senator from Alaska, who served two terms from 1969 to 1981, and a former candidate in the 2008 presidential election. He is chiefly known for his efforts in ending the draft following the Vietnam War and for putting the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971.
Born in 1930 to immigrant parents in Massachusetts, Gravel enlisted in the Army in 1951 and served in West Germany. A self-stated dyslexic, Gravel was educated at Columbia University%u2019s School of General Studies in New York, where he drove a taxi to support himself. Gravel's first steps into politics were in the Alaska House of Representatives, before he won his party's nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1968. During the 1980s, after Gravel lost his senate seat, he worked as a real estate developer, consultant and stockbroker.
Gravel is a strong supporter of direct democracy, and specifically, the National Initiative, which refers to proposals to allow for ballot initiatives at the federal level.
Question: Why do only 40% of Americans vote?
Mike Gravel: Well I don’t have a magic prescription for that. I’ve never been carried away with, “Oh we’ve got to have everybody vote.” We do that in Australia and they don’t have a better government than we have. It’s the quality of the vote. How informed are the voters when they go to the polls? Or are they just pushed in there because of a bumper sticker that they’re . . . No the . . . But what it is is that you see, our system of representative government is designed to maintain the citizens in civic adolescence. What we need to do is to cause . . . to have mature citizens. Well how do you become mature as a citizen? You take responsibility for what’s going on. Now how can you take responsibility if you can’t make any laws directly? You pass that on to elected officials. And so you want the American people to mature and participate – truly participate – give them the power to make laws and you’ll see an unbelievable creative change in our society. The people are smarter than their leaders. It’s tough for the leaders to accept that, and many times the people don’t really appreciate that; but they truly are. What would you trust? The vote of the majority of 535 people in Congress or the major . . . or the vote of the majority of 130 million American citizens? You’ll get a better decision by the 130. They don’t all have to vote, but they’ll tell you when you have an initiative and you fail to vote, and that initiative hurts you, next time around you’ll vote.
Question: Should Iowa and New Hampshire have the first primaries?
Mike Gravel: Yes I do, because they’ve been there historically. But I see nothing wrong with adding Nevada so you get some flavors from the west. I see nothing wrong with adding South Carolina. I see nothing wrong with moving Florida up. Florida . . . we’re in a very serious change. Both California, and New York, and Florida have all moved up. Well that’s gonna deflect some of the attention on these smaller venues in the early part of the campaign. But the way it . . . and I think it’s unfortunate that the democratic leadership has got into brouhaha with Michigan and with Florida. I don’t think it’s entirely fair. The legislature . . . the democratic elements and the legislature in Florida made a compromise, and they had no control; but they made a compromise so that they could get paper ballots. Now I hope that the entire election in ‘08 is done with paper ballots. The . . . the tragedy and literally the criminality of these electronic voting systems where you have no accountability, no paper trail, it leaves suspect whether or not we truly have a fair election. And we love to point to other countries – “Oh they don’t have a fair elections.” I gotta tell you the United States has not seen a fair election for some time. And so the only answer . . . I think technology can do it, but these private companies hold their software and nobody can really examine what’s going on. That’s . . . that’s ridiculous that public officials would put up with that kind, but they do. And so the only safe thing to do in the ‘08 election – have paper ballots, let people vote that way, and then when we have a government that’s prepared to bring forth the technology in a fair fashion, then we can move to electronic voting. But right now I have no confidence that this government has the integrity . . . the integrity – and I’m talking about all levels of government – have the integrity to run a fair election.
Question: What is the most dangerous idea you’ve heard in this campaign?
Mike Gravel: The most dangerous idea for us as a country is that we think we’re better than anybody else. That’s dangerous, because when you come in with that arrogance and hubris, you now start making mistakes towards everybody else in the world. Does that not characterize our foreign policy right now? And so whether it’s the east coast liberal or the conservative, we think we’re smarter and better than anybody else in the world. We’re not. We’re not. And the sooner we can step down from our arrogant pedestal and treat everybody as equals, the sooner we’re gonna have a better world. Our world has the capacity and the resources to feed everybody comfortably. It’s we human beings that lack the ability, the commitment to bring about the management of those resources so that we protect the spaceship earth and treat everybody fairly. There’s enough to go around. It’s because people . . . leaders are so bent on power, power; and then that gives you the ability to get money, and that nurtures your greed. That’s what we have a problem with, and that’s the elites of society first and foremost taking care of themselves, and it’s . . . and the rest of the people beggar thy neighbor.
Recorded on: 10/23/07
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