Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Q: When is a democracy not a democracy? A: When it’s a Republic - If you want to ensure that 'Your Vote Counts', you'd better Act like you know the difference

For those thinking that “Your Vote Counts” is really about making your vote count... you might want to consider what the backers of this 'citizens initiative' actually want your vote to count towards. What is it that they want to accomplish? Is it simply what they say they want to accomplish, or might they have another agenda in mind? What if they have a separate agenda and it is at odds with what they've told you, in order to get you to vote their way? Wouldn't that essentially be swindling you out of your vote, in order to use it to pass what they know you'd never vote for?

If you think that's far fetched, consider what it’s prime backer, HSUS (Humane Society of the United States), actually thinks about those cute puppies they use to get your sympathy with, from as far back as the 1990's they've gone on the record as having no problem with exterminating those cute little putties, though just last year they shamelessly told you that the Prop B 'puppy mill bill' was all about saving the lives of those cute little puppies...listen to :

“...the president of HSUS, Wayne Pacelle, which clearly conveys this horrific goal:

'We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding ...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding. - Animal People News, May 1993

PETA, funded by the leftist Tides Foundation, is no less radical in its beliefs as conveyed by President Ingrid Newkirk:

There's no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all animals. - Ingrid Newkirk, Washingtonian magazine, Aug 1986 and: Humans have grown like a cancer. We're the biggest blight on the face of the earth. - Ingrid Newkirk, Washingtonian magazine, Feb 1990

Shockingly, PETA kills over 95% of the animals it takes into their Norfolk, Virginia "shelter" annually according to state records. One can only assume that they equate death with kindness.”
What do you think, is it possible that perhaps past performance is an indication of the future they are working towards? These particular groups think anything done by Man is bad, do you really think they count your vote any differently? This 'Your Vote Counts' act is exactly the sort of measure which all of these sorts of groups want to see passed... what do you think counts most to them, your vote?... or swindling you of your vote to further their agenda? Got your attention?

Ok then.

What the demagogues of "Power to the People!" want your vote to count towards, is not tied to what they're telling you your vote is for, but what advances their agenda.

Neither the puppies lives, nor your liberty and right to vote are of concern to those who say they want to make your vote count, what they want is their power to go unchecked, they want to have their ability to stir up the passions of We The People into passing their agenda, and then they want those decisions to go unchallenged; the clear intent of this act, is that those who want to stir the public up into approving rash measures, want to then ensure that cooler heads cannot prevail against the power they succeeded in grabbing ahold of.

In short, they want a Democracy.

And while it gets old having to say this, even moreso than hearing it said, we are not a democracy, we are a republic. We are a Republic at the federal level, as defined by our Constitution, and as per Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, we are Republics at the state level as well.

“Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence””
Despite the various attempts that have been made, and innovations introduced over the years, to try and change that, even in the face of something akin to a coup d'etat has been (is being) tried upon the entire population through the educational system in an attempt to change us into a democracy within our own heads, if not on paper; but even so, a Republic, we remain.

One of those innovations took root in Missouri at the height of the proregressive era, when the Missouri State Constitution was amended with a provision for the people to be able to raise and pass citizens initiatives, to in effect pass their own laws when they feel that their representatives haven’t been listening closely enough to what they have to say.

I don't particularly care for such measures to express the 'voice of the people'; they smack too much of democratic ideals for my liking. In a representative republic, we elect our representatives to be both more widely informed about the legislative needs of their constituents, and to debate and act with cooler heads than what is typical of the stirred up passions which claim to express the 'will of the people'; that is is one of the main reasons why We The People chose to govern ourselves as a Republic, as opposed to as a Democracy, in the first place.

However, on the state level at least (and only at the state level), seeing as though they are a constitutional fact of life of our state, I'll concede that in limited ways they can serve a useful purpose, that of inserting measures into the legislative process when politicians might, from time to time, have become too politically correct, or weak, or too much under the influence of improper interests, to do what is legislatively the 'right thing to do' themselves.

Not surprisingly, these citizens initiatives can be both good and bad, as we saw with "The Hancock Amendment"(good) , "Term Limits" (bad), as well as last elections Prop B 'Puppy Mill' bill (very, very bad - see above... and below), which I bitterly opposed (NOTE: You can look at this online database (H/T: Ron Calzone), select "Ballot Initiative", and see all the initiatives that have been proposed over the last century... and see how astonishingly bad the majority of them have been, most of which, thankfully, have failed.). But whatever the initiatives, they must still all be subject to not only being constitutional, but subject to being amended by our representatives in government, and this has caused some uproar for both the left and the right.

Equally unsurprising, neither side likes it much when their favorite initiatives are altered. My advice?

Get over it. We’re a republic, not a democracy. That's the way the system works, no one passes decrees here, they pass laws, laws which are themselves subject to the rule of law.

This issue has come back into particular focus here in Missouri, with a new initiative, which is little more than an angry response by the backers of HSUS to our legislature for amending their Prop B's arbitrary assault upon individual rights (which was the essential meaning of Prop B). Prop B, was an awful and misleading initiative, it could not stand constitutional muster as passed, it badly needed to be amended, and it was, at least partially, in order to remove some of its more drastic provisions, provisions which subjected the livelihood and property of citizens to the worst of arbitrary intrusions and impositions of state power.

Prop B's backers, those who harped on peoples emotions to save the puppies - those same people above who last year said how much they actually care about those poor puppies, while to their own readership they clearly said they'd just as soon exterminate those same puppies,

"We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding"
are angry that they were able to mislead and stir up the public to get the power they sought (read that article closely), but then were set back by We The People's chosen representatives in our legislature who rebuffed their pure power grab. And in that same spirit, they are now seeking to effectively gut our republic of the features which make it a republic; twisting the idea of citizens initiatives as the 'voice of the people', into something more like sacred decrees issued for their pleasure.

This is not a measure to 'make your vote count', but to subvert our Republic and your liberty. Brian at "Rockin Conservative" gives a good look into it, starting with the name,

"Now, the H$U$ is back. They’re paying to get the Orwellian named “Your Vote Counts” act on the ballot"
, but the most ominous feature is that it proposes that only a super majority of both houses will be able to amend any future citizens initiative,

“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit the repeal or amendment by the General Assembly of a statute enacted by citizen initiative passed by the voters of Missouri, except by either a three-fourths vote of the members of each house or a vote of the people through a referendum or unless such statute explicitly provides that the general assembly may repeal or amend it by a majority vote of the members of each house?”
Why is that ominous?This would make it nearly impossible for our elected representatives, those We The People have sent to our state government in order to be the informed and cooler heads in charge of our legislature and the laws which govern us, from doing what they might see as being needed to be done; what this does is transform the idea of citizens initiatives from the 'voice of the people', into the unassailable decrees of a tyrant, all the while masking itself in the garb of purest citizenry.

And surprisingly their costume change seems to be having some success.

There are a number of people on the right, some of whose opinion I respect, who have put their endorsement behind this bill. They seem to be swayed by a too narrow concern with some of its sentiments which have the appearance of appealing to conservative issues, such as,

“Far more damage has been done to liberty by elected representatives, than through the initiative process”
, and following the populist logic that when the people speak they should get their way, they see this act as advancing the will of the people, and so in that uniquely well intentioned yet suicidal conservative conception of fairness, they want to be even handed to the left about making any measure, no matter how bad, cemented into near unassailable law. Typical of this view are those expressed by Patrick Tuohey of Missouri Record, that,
“Most of the above deal with the problems of getting a petition to the ballot--past incompetent or corrupt state officeholders. But none of those reforms would make a bit of difference if the legislature was free to change voter-approved language for which they did not care.

Certainly, as in the case with the Prop B, the legislature will need to act if a law enacted by petition is blatantly unconstitutional. The Your Vote Counts Act does not stop the legislature from doing this--it merely increases the threshold needed to overturn the direct express wishes of the people. If enacted, future efforts will require more persuasion and more bipartisanship. Who could be against that?”
It "...merely increases the threshold ..." - who could be against that? Well… me for one. It doesn't merely increase the threshold, it proposes to give these unchecked populist measures even more strength than a veto, though in reverse; whereas the executives veto kills legislation dead, unless it is revived a second time by a two thirds vote of both houses - an intentionally difficult and rare thing to manage in its own right, but this monstrous measure goes even further by proposing to require a three quarters vote of both houses to even amend such measures.

There is a huge, huge difference between ‘bipartisianship’, and requiring near unanimous agreement amongst all of our elected representatives, of both houses and all parties, in order to be able to subject legislation to the legislative process. This isn't about partisanship, bipartisanship, or any other sort of ... ship... this is about enabling popular passions to be imposed upon us all while silencing the real voice of the people - our elected representatives - to do anything about it. This bill may promote the 'Will of the people', but it shackles and silences the possibility of their better judgment being exercised - and that my friends, is what democracy looks like - majority rule, 'Might Makes Right'.

Requiring 75% of the House and 75% of the Senate to amend a bill - a near impossibility - is akin to adding a fourth branch of government, the 'Demogogic Branch', and I am very much opposed to that (see “Missouri’s Republic Is Under Attack” for the highlights.)

But there's a crucial issue involved here, while all sides recognize that political power originates from We The People, why should the 'direct expressed views' of the people be given more weight than the views expressed for them by their representatives in the legislature, which arguably are more essential to the design of our form of government? Though all power is derived from We The People, in a Republic, that power is to be administered for us by our elected representatives through a government that is derived from, and restrained by, its written constitution, this is vital to the concept of living under the "Rule of Law", rather than being driven by the passions of men.

As I said, I can tolerate the idea of citizens initiatives, but there's a caveat to that - such measures must abide by the same processes and be subject to the same procedures of judicial review and legislative amendment, as any other piece of legislation is. All law derives its authority from We The People; whose mouth a particular piece of legislation comes out of, be it directly from the voice of We The People, or as voiced by those representatives which We The People have elected to our legislature, adds no additional merit or value to any piece of legislation.

Behaving as if measures proceeding from those members of We The People who have been stirred up to action, are somehow more legitimate and imbued with more legislative sanctity than legislation proposed by those cooler heads we've elected to represent us in congress, smacks of the worst pretensions of democracy, undercuts the very principles of constitutional, representative republican government, and that is something that should be greatly feared.

Our system is one that depends upon checks and balances. Giving ‘We The People’ not only the power of citizens initiatives, but to drastically reduce our ability to check those initiatives when they go too far, while requiring near unanimous agreement to do so, would be exceedingly unwise.

Step one of fixing what's broke: Recognize what can't be fixed, then focus on what can be
Power corrupts, and it does so no less with We The People than with those we elect to represent us, that is a fact and it cannot be fixed. One of the secrets of success with the American Government is that our Founding Fathers did not hide from the tragic view of life, they didn't flee into some Utopian 'rights of man' rationalistic nonsense, they recognized the limitations they had to work with - people are flawed - and designed a system with that fact in mind. Rather than hiding from reality, or pretending it was something other than it was, they faced up to reality and dealt with it as men.

Power corrupts. What's worse, is that people are more often corrupted and led astray through their best intentions, rather than their worse ones, and those who are corrupted are often privately just as surprised to discover that they are corrupt, as their public is when they discover it later.

Our system of government recognizes that fact, it doesn't deny it. It channels it, it forces one groups best intentions to pass the scrutiny of the best intentions of another group, and in this way, in the halls of a constitutional government such as ours, that corruption has to work its way past the structures and processes designed to limit it - this is what our 'Checks and Balances' are, and are designed to do.

The novice and deluded complain about how our Checks and Balances slow government down from doing the good it could do. The wise thank God that it does.

The Citizens Initiative measure, by itself, is an attempt to speed up the good that government could do. There are no processes or restraints to limit, expose or hinder We The People from ramming through one poorly thought out, though popular, citizens initiative after another, except for those we elect to represent us in our government. Our representatives ability to amend such initiatives, just as they are able to do so with any other legislation, is not a failing, but a saving strength in the check it provides to balance the system. Remove that check, and we risk absolute power corrupting We The People absolutely.

If We The People think it wiser to allow ourselves to propose and impose whatever measure that strikes our stirred up passions, and do so nearly free from the review and checks of the cooler heads of our elected representatives, then we are headed for a disastrous, and almost certainly a very democratic, ‘rule of law’.

And that should scare the hell out of you.

Fixing what is broken and can be fixed
 The best way to fix our system is by fixing what is broken in the system, not by rigging it Rube Goldberg-like with additional systems to compensate for it.

If We The People have become so apathetic that we can’t remind, or even punish our elected representatives when they violate our trust, then we deserve the fate we are enabling them to deliver us to.

If we want to restore the republic, the only way to do so is by strengthening the republic, and those we elect to it, not by transforming it into a system that is even more like a democracy than it already is.

The only way to restore a republic, is by restoring the understanding of what a Republic is,

"... . It signified a government, in which the property of the public, or people, and of every one of them, was secured and protected by law. This idea, indeed, implies liberty; because property cannot be secure unless the man be at liberty to acquire, use, or part with it, at his discretion, and unless he have his personal liberty of life and limb, motion and rest, for that purpose..."
to those who it derives its power from. The only way to restore the republic is by We The People taking the time to again learn what our Republic is, and why We The People first chose it, and then insisting upon the rule of law by and among those we elect to represent us to it. We cannot restore the republic, by resorting to the 'rules' and methods of a democracy - there is a reason why we are one, rather than the other - and we cannot become a stronger form of one, by likening ourselves to the other.

Regarding the "Your Vote Counts" act, if you understand that you have the right to see to it that your vote counts, then you must rip the Orwellian name from this act and call it as it is - the "Rob Your Rights Blind" act . If you are actually thinking favorably of this thing, do yourself a favor, have a look at the online database I mentioned above, select "Ballot Initiative", and look at all the initiatives that have failed over the last century, and then imagine what your life would be like if most of them had passed and we had no way of changing them.

If we want to restore the Republic, the first step is recognizing that there are no short cuts to doing so. We The People have to learn what we need to know, inform our neighbors, and speak up, nominating and electing better candidates, and paying much closer attention to what they are doing in our capital.

If you want your vote to count, what do you want it to count for? To increase your liberty? Or to simply to get what you want because you want it, despite whether or not it is the right thing to do?

It is important for your vote to count, but it's far more important that your vote count towards strengthening your liberty and the rule of law, rather than the muscle of the mob.

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