GOOD
Articles

Direct Democracy: Very Hard to Destroy

"Direct democracy" is a blanket term for systems that allow voters to pass or reject laws by voting on "initiatives" and "referenda" at the polls....


"Direct democracy" is a blanket term for systems that allow voters to pass or reject laws by voting on "initiatives" and "referenda" at the polls. It's "direct" because laws get passed by popular vote, without the state legislature's involvement.Twenty-four states have some sort of direct democracy. California is one of them. Hiram Johnson, the Progressive governor of California from 1911 to 1917, made this case for direct democracy:
...those of us who espouse these measures do so because of our deep-rooted belief in popular government, and not only in the right of the people to govern, but in their ability to govern; and this leads us logically to the belief that if the people have the right, the ability, and the intelligence to elect, they have as well the right, ability, and intelligence to reject or to recall.
Sounds ok, right? Well direct democracy has actually created an incredible mess in California. The voters, as it turns out, are pretty short-sighted. They've made it very hard for the state to raise taxes or pass a budget and very easy for the state to spend money. As a result, California is in dire shape, with billion-dollar shortfalls, a falling credit rating, and a strapped public university system.Now there are two initiatives on the California ballot-supported by a group called Repair California-that would convene a new constitutional convention for the state and overhaul its direct democracy mechanisms. In other words, it would be a way of using direct democracy to destroy direct democracy.But get this: The petition management firms that make money from direct democracy by hiring out professional signature gathers are blacklisting those initiatives as an act of self-preservation.
Proponents of a statewide ballot measure calling for a rewrite of how California governs itself say they are under attack from the lucrative signature-gathering industry.Repair California, the Bay Area-based business group behind two initiatives that would convene a Constitutional Convention, has accused five firms of blacklisting their petitions, shouting down their volunteers, destroying valid signatures and intentionally submitting fake signatures.
The initiative system is not only completely screwing California, it has also put an incredible amount of power in the hands of a few signature-gathering companies-and it is rigged to keep itself alive.
Trending Stories