Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Former 1st CD Congressman Mark Neumann is running for the Republican nomination for Wisconsin governor this year. To appeal to the teabagger types, he proposes a lot of changes to the Wisconsin constitution, such as term limits and, the topic of this week's Racine Post cartoon, California-style voter initiatives.

The way initiatives work is that citizens muster up majorities to require the state to, say, keep all felons in prison for a century, plow all snowfalls over a quarter of an inch, use only non-toxic salt on the streets, and deport anyone caught speaking Spanish, while simultaneously keeping taxes at 1848 levels.

It works so well for California, after all.

Voters in California, having voted in constitutional amendments to have their cake one year and to eat it too the next, have rendered their state completely ungovernable. If the comments on media web sites are any indication, voters in Wisconsin would be just as likely to make impossible demands through initiative fiat.

It's also very easy to persuade a majority of voters to trample the rights of a minority. Any minority. Witness the various referenda on same-sex marriage: very few voters would actually benefit personally from same-sex marriage, while a substantial fraction of the electorate either feels or can be made to feel threatened by it. Then there is the majority who have no strong feelings about it either way; most of them don't vote, or pay so little attention to the wording of the ballot measure that they can't recall on Wednesday morning whether they voted Yes to stop gay marriage, No to stop gay marriage, Yes to okay gay marriage, or No to allow gay marriage.

When the legislature votes to take away your rights, you have the recourse of voting against the legislators who cast those votes. There is no such recourse in a voter initiative. The people who got the measure on the ballot, call them grass roots or astroturf, are no more accountable to you than are lobbyists. They answer only to their special interest.

No comments:

Post a Comment