Germans seeking to expand direct democracy face a steep, historical obstacle: the Nazi use of plebiscites has widely discredited direct legislation. But a group of mostly young Germans (many of them with ties to the environmental movement) think the country should have the initiative and referendum all all levels of government.

So, for the last 8 years, they’ve been driving a bus around Germany. They take turns living on the bus, often for months at a time. They visit towns and talk with people about the virtues of direct democracy. They’ve been having success. Use of the direct democracy is now common in German localities. There have been thousands of measures, many of them on the same local development controversies that appear on American ballots. And more and more Gemran states are adopting direct democracy. But no such luck yet at the federal level.

The bus itself is quite an advertisement. Inside and outside, it is full of pro-direct democracy messages. I saw the bus today–it’s parked outside the direct democracy conference I’m attending in Aarau, Switzerland. Michael von der Lohe, who started as an intern on the bus and is now one of the riders, explained, "Our inspiration is to be found not in politics but in art." Of course.

The German Direct Democracy BusThe German Direct Democracy Bus