Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Evil in Olympia

As we do in Massachusetts, Washington State voters face another spite-filled and vicious abuse of the ballot-initiative process. We have our anti-same-sex-marriage amendment proposal slithering its way into the General Court shortly. They face a similar effort to overturn their law extending legal protections to homosexuals in housing, employment, lending and so forth.

Ours has angered many beyond the gay communities. Those who respect the intention of citizen initiatives to correct egregious legislative blunders certainly would like to halt the misuse by extremist groups as we have seen here and see now. They want a halt to the fraud we saw recently from hired-gun signature gatherers, further perverting the initiative process. Many of us understand how representative government is supposed to work and know that calls to "let the people decide" is a cowardly cop-out from those who should lead.

Washington has an extra wrinkle. The vast majority of their mean-spirited, expensive, time-consuming initiatives come from a professional, Tim Eyman. He has made and continues to make a fortune misusing the check supposedly reserved for citizen groups.

According to an article in the Seattle Times, some locals there are tired of seeing other citizens jerked around in the process. To wit:
Some legal and political experts say it's inappropriate. Voters can be arbitrary, they say, as reluctant to take away rights as they are to grant them. And they may be too easily swayed or too burdened by biases to make fair decisions on matters crucial to people's lives.

"After all, what are rights if they can be voted up one year and down the next?" said Brian Silver, a Michigan State University professor of political science.

Voters are notoriously stingy in mirroring the rights they enjoy. There, it used to be the Native Americans, the Chinese, women, blacks and on and on. Creating an equitable society does not come from plebiscites. We are not that evolved as a species.

The polls throughout Washington say people support gay rights. The locals look to the recent experience in Maine. The horrid Christian Civics League of Maine and a small group of fundies tried to overturn the gay-rights protections overwhelming passed by the legislature and happily signed by the governor.

This time people had advanced enough that they rejected the initiative. The polls say Washingtonians will too.

We have ranted more than once (five times at that link) about how this abuse sucks resources and attention from what the citizens need. Letting a plebiscite decide on minority citizens' rights has a stinking, shameful history in this country, and in many others. The process most decidedly needs exemptions to protect us from us.

It is not secret now that ballot initiatives need reform throughout the nation. They can serve good purposes, but not like we have seen in Boston and Olympia.

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