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nellie On November - 4 - 2009

Prop8_1107842cI used to view the initiative process as a victory for direct democracy—the people’s voice bypassing the corruption and deal making of legislative bodies. After living in California for 20 plus years, it has become clear to me that this lawmaking strategy needs to be constitutionally banned. Nationwide.

In California, we are now suffering the fallout of “me first” legislation that drains our tax base, undoing our social contract in effect. We are also living in a culture that has done an end run around one of the central functions of the constitution—protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

The vote in Maine on same sex marriage is just more proof that civil rights cannot be left in the hands of citizens. We need our constitutional protections. Otherwise mob rule will undo the civility we have worked so hard to build.

The initiative process is nothing more than mob rule wearing a populist mask. It should be banned as a lawmaking process.

41 Responses so far.

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  1. choicelady says:

    As one in the progressive faith community who wanted to be in the thick of the No on 8 position in 2008, may I say that both CA and ME made precisely the same mistake -- no one trusted that there were lots of people of faith on the side of marriage equality and equality in general. When we tried to do our best work serving our denominations that total 6.5 MILLION in CA alone, we were told “the faith community has nothing to say.” That was a disaster. With the religious right telling such LIES, how incredible could it have been to have our large numbers of clergy in ads refuting all that garbage? How might things have been different when our amazing clergy of color spoke to their own communities and told them the truth? ME did the same damned thing -- did NOT work with people of faith and certainly did not use them in ads -- and there you are. If the religious right is going to spew garbage, the religious progressives HAVE to be involved.

    If you want to see what we could have done -- the educational work that could have been transformative on the voting results -- go to our web site and get the PDF of our marriage equality study guide:
    http://www.calchurches.org/marriage/ When we got a few dollars to use it in some key areas about three months before the 2008 election, there was major movement against the YES position and gain on the NO position. We could have been and would have been the keys to success. Let’s NOT make that mistake again!

    • nellie says:

      I hope the movement has learned its lesson. It’s a shame that the right wing has succeeded in giving all religious groups such a bad name. A lot of good work has been done by people of faith, and that continues — and should never be forgotten.

  2. nicole473 says:

    I was very saddened to hear that Maine repealed their law allowing same-sex couples to marry. It was such a hopeful thing when it was enacted, and now this…….
    Our system does allow for mob rule in the form of initiatives, and as you so eloquently pointed out, these initiatives should and must be banned. Until they are, I believe that they will become even more common, and will largely seek to retreat from civil rights, not only for gays, but for other groups as well.

  3. Khirad says:

    Listen, I know it was only Civil Unions, but after the same kind of campaign of hate was waged in Washington (I will not be adding the suffix ‘state’, as you shall soon learn why), how come no news coverage of R-71’s victory? This native has his own opinion, but it probably has more to do with the news media driving a narrative than the chip on the shoulder we get when we’re from the Pacific Northwest as feeling an insignificant corner to the rest of the country not worthy of attention; not even when the other state is Maine (no offense meant to the Pine Tree State or the other Portland).

  4. KevenSeven says:

    Never underestimate the ability of a mob to behave hatefully.

  5. KQuark says:

    How can you have a soul and not look at that picture and be heart broken? I just don’t understand how people can celebrate the misery of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong, especially nothing wrong to you. The only scripture I ever believed in whole heartedly was the golden rule. How is voting against love and soul mates joining together living by the golden rule?

  6. Grabamop/Obama20082012 says:

    Don’t give up on ballot proposals, if not for them here in Michigan we would not have legalized medical weed and stem cell research. Our troglodyte trolls in our government would never have passed either. And that’s both parties! As far as gay marriage goes, I hate to say this but most of the ha8ters are in the top tier of the age brackets, and it’s just a matter of time before they are dead and can’t vote. And shame on Maine. On the California point you guys need a new constitution…………

    • BigDogMom says:

      They are not passing over to the other side fast enough for me…sorry if I offend anyone, I’m having a bad day politcally…:{

    • nellie says:

      You bring up a good point about medical marijuana. Same thing happened here in CA. It just seems so unfair to make people wait for civil rights while the majority of voters take their sweet time coming to their senses. Or pass on to the next life.

      But point taken.

  7. BigDogMom says:

    Here my world…My City’s Local Elections yesterday…Repuplican’s swept the City Council and Board of Ed…there were only two African Americans on the board of ed and 4 on the city council…in a city that is at least 50% black…they are now gone..this is a post from a citizen from our local newspaper…

    “Ms Murray and Ms Mosby may not have been everyone’s choice, but they were there and tried their best…Now Norwalk has its all white board. And now we can rest so we know that our children will be taught Columbus discovered America, all was well with blacks as soon as the Civil War ended, and that Native Americans were not important to the great expansion of our country and so could be destroyed like buffalo and rounded up like cattle. Hallellujah. Welcome to 1950’s Mississippi, aka Norwalk.”

    The responses where…stop being a cry baby, stop playing the race card, and this was the best one….now maybe we don’t have to feed the welfare babies at school…

    And to think this is 2009…

    • Kalima says:

      This local newspaper comment left my blood boiling. The words ” but they were there and tried their best. Now Norwalk has its all white board and Native Americans were not important to the great expansion of our country and so could be destroyed like buffalo and rounded up like cattle” are just too offensive to sink into my brain. These people crawl from the bowels of the earth like creatures of the night on hands and feet and make no sense except to propagate their stinking, rotting hate. I spit in their general direction!

    • SueInCa says:

      2009 or not, the knuckledraggers would be happy to take us back to the 19th century, except when it comes to their modern conveniences, then they would cry like babies. I am really disturbed at the votes against gay marriage though. What happens to smaller government and how can republicans claim they want small government when they stick their noses in people’s lives like that? Republicans just do not make sense to me overall.

      • BigDogMom says:

        Here I thought we had voted for Gay Marriage here in CT, and everything was ok, now I hear tonight on the 5:00 local news, that there are those that want to repeal it…I am having such a bad day today…

        I think they, the Repugs are getting worse…

    • PepeLepew says:

      That’s really too bad. Politics brings out the absolute worst in people sometimes. In our town (I didn’t get to vote because we just moved to a house a couple of miles outside city limits), a right-wing city councilor was voted off the council because he and a couple other right-wing councilors actually filed litigation against the city because they were mad that a zoning vote didn’t go their way. The lawsuit was thrown out of court and people were annoyed this guy was wasting city resources on a dumb lawsuit. So, it was a good day, locally. The city council was a 4-4 liberal/conservative split, but because this guy filed a specious lawsuit, its a 5-3 liberal majority … with a liberal mayor.

      • BigDogMom says:

        Good for you, you are soooo lucky…we have the Knuckle Draggers now in office…Can’t wait to see how many civil liberties and zoning laws they can break…they’re already talking about breaking the city and teacher’s unions contracts in regards to benefits….have a nice day!

    • nellie says:

      Our discourse has gotten so meanspirited. It’s more about gotcha and who can I put down than about problem solving. This is what turns me off at HP. I go there to learn more from the community — there are a lot of very knowledgeable people who go to that site — but all the gratuitous sniping and superior posturing is not something that I want in my day.

      It’s hard to understand people with so much resentment and anger that they have to lash out with these kinds of insults. My sympathies to Norwalk.

      • BigDogMom says:

        Thank you, the more things change the more they stay the same sometimes…just when I think we are moving forward, your post and my local elections just show me how much further we need to go….

        I too have just about stopped going to HP, was there this morning sniping away, and then thought, this is not doing anyone and myself any good…time to stop

        • kesmarn says:

          Our local election was disappointing, too. The big contest was for mayor of our city (also county seat, pop. about 300,000). A well respected Dem candidate was defeated by an independent who was strongly backed by the local Clear Channel AM radio station (the one that carries all the Limbaugh-type hate programming) and who promised that the city would become more “business friendly” (translation: no taxes on corporations and no environmental law enforcement). And a State bill that would have allowed tougher environmental restrictions on huge factory-farms went down, too.
          Sometimes it feels as though we’re going backwards around these parts.

  8. javaz says:

    Gay rights is an issue very near and dear to me.
    I have 2 family members and a few very good friends that I am very close to, and have witnessed firsthand the harassment, abuse and threats, and all of them were directed at them just because they are gay.
    I do think that things have changed and gay people are more accepted now, but I also know that that is not the case in every day life.
    The only experience that I ever had, personally, where I could finally understand the fear, was a few years back when I had very, very short hair for a woman.
    It was a stupid thing, and in no way threatening, but it made me think about the people who taunted me and what it could have meant under different circumstances.
    I had gone grocery shopping, and was loading the trunk, and an older woman walking with her husband stopped and pointed at me and said very loudly -- “She’s one of them! She’s a Lesbian!”
    I laughed at that, but when I returned home, it occurred to me that had it not been an older couple, but a hateful pair of rednecks, that I could have faced a very real and potentially dangerous problem.
    I cannot imagine living in fear but that is exactly what gay people live with every single day of their lives.
    You never know where you’ll be in encountering ignorance and hate.
    Thank goodness that people cannot distinguish liberals by their appearance!
    I agree with this post and wonder if slavery had been put up for a vote, or women’s rights to vote, or even abortion, and yes that one is still under threat of being overturned, but there are social issues that should never be allowed for the populace to decide.
    Then again, look at our Supreme Court, that is conservative and always against the people, and always on the side of the corporations.
    We must always be vigilant.

  9. KQuark says:

    I am hugely disappointed by the vote in Maine. I just don’t get people voting for less love in the world instead of more. It’s just fucking crazy.

    My belief, is we live in a representative democracy for a reason because people will never vote for anything that brings them the smallest amount of pain even if we need it or like in yesterday’s example the mob should not be able to block individual rights.

  10. PepeLepew says:

    I lived in Oregon in the early 90s when gay haters would put initiatives on the ballot every year trying to eliminate gay rights. (Measure 9 ring a bell to anyone?) I’m not talking the right to marry; I’m talking gays not having any rights at all. They would put these divisive and ugly measures (and unconstitutional) on the ballot every June or November all through the 90s until finally their leaders all ended up going to jail. None of them ever passed — I think the closest one came to passing was one that got about 47 percent of the vote. But, it was a real abuse of the initiative process and I really changed my mind about citizen initiatives — that they either needed to be eliminated or they needed to make it more difficult to put them on the ballot.

    • Khirad says:

      Yes, I remember the OCA. Mostly from SE Oregon and tied to racists (?), if I remember right. In addition I remember that even the Portland law got overturned. But, Sam Adams remains in office, even after the scandal.

  11. FeloniousMonk says:

    Nellie, I lived in CA in the mid 1980s and watched initiative after initiative go through. No one thought about when the bill would come do, just so long as it wasn’t today. Between that, and the worst initiative in California history, Proposition 13, a pattern was set for financial ruin. Voters aren’t always very bright about what is good or not good for them, in both directions.

    There are those who would want a new Constitutional Convention, which is called out as a Constitutional process. I personally think we were lucky to have come up with the finest governing base document in the history of humankind, and that any attempt to wholesale update or replace it would only result in the special interests ruining it. However, I would like to see some Amendments.

    Voting on civil rights is difficult, but it has worked on the national stage before. Not always quickly or well, but it has worked. How else can we get the changes needed? But true updates and change requires establishing a strong motivated base and pushing an agenda. Sufferage wasn’t won by women alone voting it in, but by getting enough of an enlightened electorate to understand the basic justice of it. The same goes for most other civil rights.

    Unfortunately, here in America the superstitious get in the road (read that religious right).

    But the concepts of rights evolve as we do. The understanding of what is a right does also, at least for many of us.

    • nellie says:

      Unfortunately, I think our votes on civil rights have only worked out in this country when they have been votes taken in congress or by the legislature. Our representatives take an oath to uphold the constitution, and they have our courts as a check to any laws they might enact.

      It’s not a perfect system, but I would rather leave the responsibility of determining who has civil rights and who doesn’t (as if) in the hands of people who take that oath, who keep the constitution in mind when drafting our laws — rather than to individuals who selfishly and irrationally see harm to themselves in any freedom granted to someone else.

  12. AdLib says:

    Nellie, you’ve focused on an important topic that I’ve thought about quite a bit.

    The proposition system has been hijacked in many cases by special interests to accomplish through manipulation and lies what could never be passed by a legislature.

    It has become a new path for corporate and ideological extremists to get what they want be deceiving and scaring the public.

    This needs to be seriously reigned in, the proposition system was meant to give citizens of a state power to make changes, not a shortcut for the greediest and most hateful from all around the country to thrust their agendas on the citizens of a state.

    The irony is, it will probably take a proposition to reign in propositions.

    • escribacat says:

      Hey, Adlib,
      I invited one of my favorite HP posters over here (onwardsandupwards formerly Virginia Plain). She is Irish. She wrote back to say she couldn’t because it was a “citizen’s forum,” and she isn’t a citizen. I’m assuming PP is not just for US citizens, right? Assuming that’s correct, maybe you could reword the welcome message at the top to say we are an international progressive forum or something along those lines.

    • FeloniousMonk says:

      My uncle, who was a good democrat living in San Rafael, once told me about the affects Reagan becoming governor wrought, and it seems that how California went after Ronny so did America after we elected him to the Presidency. People sure did get sold a bill of goods on that one.

      • AdLib says:

        Your uncle was a wise man.

        We can attribute the Southern Strategy to Nixon, melding the Religious Right with the GOP but other than that, just about everything awful that has happened to our economy, working Americans and families and peace and stability in the world grew out of the Reagan Presidency.

        And who was his VP again?

  13. bitohistory says:

    Total agreement, Nellie.
    We have that little jewel in AZ also. Luckily, there is enough of a libertarian bent in the repubs to defeat some of the worst ones but still enough to do harm. Read a survey years ago on which of the bill of rights should be dumped or altered. Needless to say I was shocked and saddened by the results. How does one vote on someone’s civil RIGHTS?

    • Khirad says:

      Didn’t you love that redundant prop? Down here they shot ambush commercials outside the Tucson Courthouse, with everything but puppies and rainbows as props. The one thing I will say about AZ is that yes, there still is that Goldwater spirit, and our Repubs are more the ‘leave me the hell alone’ type.

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