Beverly Elander and John Manimas sat down recently to talk about what aspects of his life were most influential in creating his Real Democracy Plan.


BE:  You have mentioned that your Real Democracy Project took 43 years to design.  When and how did it start?


JM:  It all started in 1956 when I was a paperboy for the Bridgeport (Connecticut) Post.  In that same year I watched John F. Kennedy speak on television at the Democratic National Convention, and also read his book, Profiles in Courage. 


BE:  Can you elaborate more on the influence of the newspaper and Kennedy?


JM:  I read the front page of the newspaper every day, which inspired me to observe and study American politics for the remainder of my life.  Kennedy's speech and book caused me to believe that the political arena was the place to improve society or solve social problems.  I idolized John F. Kennedy because his views on political action were idealistic and hopeful.  Many young people were receptive to his positive attitude at that time. 


BE:  That was a long time ago.  How did this seed in your youth develop over the years?


JM:  My English teacher at Andrew Warde High School in Fairfield, CT encouraged me for my writing on philosophical and political topics.  I developed a strong interest in the historical causes behind the birth of our nation and our Constitution.  I felt proud of my country for its written commitments to democracy and civil rights but became ashamed in the 1960s of the racial conflicts that continued to poison American society.


BE:  Did your views on civil rights change during your four years at Brandeis University?     


JM:  I was astounded to learn that black citizens were still denied the right to vote and required by law or common practice to use separate entrances, rest rooms, water fountains, seating on a bus or train.  I learned that many of my views were consistent with the political philosophy called "socialism" and I came to believe that even some communist ideas were in fact idealistic applications of democracy, especially with regard to economic justice.  I did not go south with "freedom marchers" in the summer of 1963 because I was certain I could not maintain the strict adherence to non-violent resistance and I would be imprisoned for life or even killed by a racist sheriff.  Then in November of 1963 my political hero and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and I soon learned that great effort was invested in concealing the evidence that might reveal his true killers. 


BE:  How did the violence of the 1960s affect you?


JM:  My views on American history and politics became more realistic and mixed with serious doubts about whether we really had a democracy.  This questioning outlook was supported by President Eisenhower's famous speech in January 1960 when he warned the American people that there was a "military-industrial complex" that wielded "unwarranted influence" over American government.


BE:  What did you do as a result of your dramatic change of views?


JM:  I studied the history of American declarations of war for eighteen months in order to determine how the "Tonkin Gulf Resolution" was different from previous authorizations of war.  The results of my research motivated me to file a complaint in federal court in 1968 that drafting citizens to serve in Vietnam was unconstitutional because it amounted to "conscription without representation."  At that time there was widespread opposition to the war, but almost always on moral grounds.  Only myself and a handful of others made serious efforts to oppose the draft on constitutional grounds.  My lawsuit in 1968 foreshadowed my current active effort in 2016 to eliminate the two-party system by implementation of a legal plan, the Real Democracy Project.


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