Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Left Opposes Direct Democracy

In the wake of an election during which conservatives scores some signal victories in ballot issues (referenda), it’s interesting to review the history of direct democracy, and why the left now hates it.

From the Wall Street Journal:

A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It’s healthy that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West, including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states, which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.

But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to Ward Connerly’s measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former University of California regent has convinced three liberal states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

“The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place,” says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). “That’s the only way we’re going to win.” Her group’s name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart Mr. Connerly.

Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as to claim that a blank line on one petition was a “duplicate” of another blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative’s ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled she had overstepped her authority, there wasn’t enough time to collect sufficient signatures.

Those who did circulate petitions faced bizarre obstacles. In Kansas City, a petitioner was arrested for collecting signatures outside of a public library. Officials finally allowed petitioners a table inside the library but forbade them to talk. In Nebraska, a group in favor of racial preferences ran a radio ad that warned that those who signed the “deceptive” petition “could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and much worse.”

Mr. Connerly says that it’s ironic that those who claim to believe in “people power” want to keep people from voting on his proposal: “Their tactics challenge the legitimacy of our system.”

What about voters’ rights to sign ACRI’s petitions? BAMN organizer Monica Smith equates race-neutral laws with Jim-Crow segregation laws and slavery. She told Tuscon columnist Denogean that voters are simply being educated that ACRI is “trying to end affirmative action . . . We let them know it’s up on the KKK’s Web site.” Mr. Connerly has repudiated any support from racists.

The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 12% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.

This is a nation were supporters of racial preferences are well-organized and well-represented in legislatures, courts and even business firms (which are the willing victims of a protection racket run by the left), direct democracy gives voice to the people.

The reality is similar where gay marriage is concerned. The elites are on one side, and the majority of the American people are on the other.

In such an environment, the left too often resorts to thuggery to frustrate the public will.


Blogger Evan Ravitz said...

Lots of lefties support initiatives and lots or righties hate them.

Here in Colorado, both worked together to defeat the legislature's attempt to make Constitutional initiatives much harder. Ref. O was defeated 52.4-47.5%.

"Both" included Doug Bruce, author of TABOR, on the right, and Common Cause and Environment Colorado on the left.

Same basic thing happened in Arizona with the 2-1 defeat of Prop. 105

Your party is in real danger if it doesn't accept realities like this. The only thing worse than a 2-party system is a 1-party system.

Evan Ravitz, Founder

7:54 AM  

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