Monday, June 12, 2006

Flamethrower of Populism

The imps and devils of regression have dominated, but not totally controlled, the extremely dangerous weapon of ballot initiatives. A recap in this week's The Nation heaps praise on good results.

Link Note: If you subscribe to The Nation, you can see the piece here. To us, this is the most important publication available to progressives and other lefties. If you don't subscribe, why not start immediately?

Half our states allow ballot initiatives. Regressive and reactionary groups in the right have been successfully perverting their purpose -- to overturn incompetent and destructive laws -- for decades. The effort here and elsewhere to strip gays and other minitories of rights is too outrageous. This will surely continue until legislatures get smart enough to fine-tune this process to return it to its roots.

Of course, here in Massachusetts, we are in the throes of yet another pseudo-populist drive. Under the ruse of populism (Let the people vote! is the cry of the craven.), we have been wasting our intellectual, emotional and temporal capital on yet the latest anti-same-sex-marriage initiative. This one seems worse because it clearly is trying to overturn a court decision, something our constitution forbids. Yet, Attorney General Tom Reilly didn't have the courage and legal vision to call it was it is and nix it.

Elsewhere and otherwise, there are those like us who carp and those who do things. The Nation's article praises the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. For five years, it has been teaching progressives how to use this process for good ends.

As well as achieving good legislation on their own, these apparently get out the vote:
Although ballot initiatives may not be as sexy as high-profile candidate races, they are an important part of this year's mid-term elections. In addition to paving the way for progressive policy strides, referendums can galvanize voters and increase turnout. According to University of Florida professor Daniel Smith, in the past twenty years of midterm elections, each ballot initiative increased turnout, on average, by 2 percentage points.
In this fall's pending elections, the good guys have:
  • Minimum-wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio.
  • Renewable energy in Washington and California.
  • Fusion voting in Massachusetts.
  • Stem cell research in Missouri. "If successful, this life-saving proposition could set the precedent for the next progressive multi-state ballot initiative campaign."

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