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Citizen Legislation: Returning the Power to the People

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The Republican Party (with exceptions) has abandoned conservativism. Even beyond ideology, most politicians in Congress have embraced corruption and Beltway politics. This, more than anything else, was the reason the GOP was delivered a stinging defeat in 2006. Many commentators have stated that the 2006 election was the demise of conservatism. This is hardly true.

Where conservatism succeeded was in ballot initiatives. Most notably, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which banned affirmative action was passed despite the opposition of almost every politician in Michigan. Gay marriage bans passed throughout the country. One of the main mechanisms that keeps California from being a runaway socialist Republic is the binding ballot initiative.

However, many states still do not have binding referenda. Illinois, for example, allows non-binding referenda complete with laws that even allow the entrenched elite to squash attempts to put questions on the ballot that run against the established groupthink. Binding referenda movements need to be established in every state to allow relatively easy ballot access for citizen-initiated referenda.

Where binding referenda exist already, conservatives need to engage in a full-court press to put conservative questions on the ballot and get them passed. For decades conservatives have complained about affirmative action and it wasn’t until citizens in Michigan got the job done until the policy changed. If it was up to the established elite, gay marriage would be a reality everywhere.

Some politicians may come along who take conservative values seriously and when they do they should be supported. Until then, it is time to practice politics without politicians. If we can’t have citizen legislators in office, we can at least practice citizen legislation with binding referenda.

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About John Bambenek

John Bambenek is a political activist and computer security expert. He has his own company Bambenek Consulting in Champaign, IL that specializes in digital forensics and computer security investigations.
  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    let’s not be too quick to lionize ballot initiatives. They often have unintended consequences. The most famous early one, California’s Proposition 13, has hamstrung every government since then trying to find a way to adequately fund education without bankrupting the rest of the state apparatus.

    It is often extremists who draft initiatives, and they have learned to design them to appeal to the least common denominator. This is particularly apparent in the anti-same-sex marriage initiatives. They deliberately aim for people’s emotions, not their minds. Demagoguery results. Not always pretty.

    Moving even further into government by initiative could be pretty radical, and may lead to major future unpleasantness because of oversimplification of issues now. Be careful what you wish for. The founding fathers set up legislative government for a reason.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Be careful what you ask for. There’s a reason why our founders tried to distance the passage of legislation from the public. The public are inclined to lemminglike bandwagon jumping, and while they may be joining you on the march to take basic civil rights away from gays today, that same enthusiasm could take other civil rights away from you next election.

    Dave

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Hey Dave…Didn’t I just say that? Ha, guess we practically agree for once.

  • http://rjr10036.typepad.com Richard Rothstein

    I never ceased to be astonished by the ignorance of many Americans who mistakenly think of themselves as conservatives. A true conservative would honor and strive to protect the integrity of the intent of the founding fathers and our constitution. Madison drafted a constitution and supported a representaitive democracy to prevent the chaotic and brutal rule of the mob–which is how he and the other founding fathers viewed pure democracy. Allowing popular vote to determine civil rights and other issues for American citizens is hardly in keeping with American conservatism, it is extremism at its worst and a profound threat to the legacy of 1776..

  • Jerry

    Richard,
    Do you then believe that activist judges such as those of the 9th Circus Court are a threat to the integrity of representative democracy?

    Or is the activism of such judges superior to that of citizens?

    Your statement is true if we were living in a time when we could trust our representatives to look out for our best interests.

    Ballot initiatives and the like, while not the best option, may be the only line of defense that remains for citizens to combat elitism.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    If the public can’t be trusted to vote appropriately on referenda, they cannot be trusted to vote apparently. If you believe this, you must, if you are honest, also oppose any citizen-based government.

    Those who object to the “tyranny of the majority” are most often those who wish to implement a “tyranny of the minority”.

  • Jerry

    You got it right John. The elites on either side of the fence believe we are incapable of good judgement.
    Obviously and thankfully, there are still enough citizens aware of the dangers of tyranny, and we throw the bums out.

    It’ll probably happen again in a few years with the Dems.

    Wish I could talk to Madison now and ask him what side he’d be on in this.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    If referenda were written objectively, and if the 30-second commercials that dominate these campaigns were less gutter-focused, you might have some point citing the results of referenda as ‘proof’ of something. But since the ballot initiatives are written by rabid partisans, and the ads that decide the vote are often very simplistic and low-minded, I don’t see how you can defend the results. If you don’t like your representative government, vote them out of office.

    P.S. We just did.

  • Jerry

    “gutter focused” and “rabid partisans”…Hmmm
    Sounds no worse than the TV and radio ads we had to endure to watch our democracy in action!

  • RedTard

    “joining you on the march to take basic civil rights away from gays today” – Dave Nalle

    Wow, I didn’t know that gays had historically been allowed to marry. Must be some christoid propaganda I got hold of.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    RedTard. You need to think beyond the word ‘marriage’. It’s a distraction. Think about the practicalities. Not allowing gays to have the functional equivalent of marriage with or without the name deprives them of the most fundamental right, the right to property which is guaranteed in the 4th amendment. If the law does not recognize unions between same sex couples then inheritance of jointly owned property is not guaranteed as it should be, and that’s a violation of a fundamental right.

    Dave

  • RedTard

    Just critiquing your argument. Most people get emotional and go overboard demonizing anyone that doesn’t support gay marriage so you often find me defending them. I voted against the marriage amendment in Texas along with the rest of the crap they put on the ballot. I’m marginally in favor of gay marriage because it has absolutely no effect on my life but it seems to piss gay people off to no end. I’m all for people getting along better, especially when it costs me nothing.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    There is no, absolutely no, libertarian case for gay marriage. You cannot hold on to granting public benefits for a relationship that is shrouded in privacy and individual rights and expression.

    The only sound libertarian position is to remove all public benefits from marriage, gay or otherwise.

    Of course, this would be stupid, because what people on all sides fail to understand is marriage is not a private relationship, it is a public relationship. That’s why there is a requirement for public registration with a county clerk, why a judge/minister will say “by the power vested in me (by some government body), pronounce…” why there are public benefits.

    The question that needs to be asked is what public interest is there in marriage, what does that say about the nature of the relationship, and does that require or suggest it is appropriate for public registration, public benefits, and public regulation.

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