October 12, 2017

The healthy power of ballot initatives

Evan Ravitz, Quora -If Democrats want to be democratic, in touch with youth, and effectively promote a better world, they should back what The Economist magazine called back in 1993 “the logical next step for the West”: direct democracy as the ultimate check and balance to representative democracy.

The most important reason is that direct democracy in the US (practiced by 24 states that have ballot initiatives is the source of most progress in this country, with Congress and State legislatures copying popular initiatives. Colorado where I live has a far better recent record of legislation by the people than the record of any state legislature or Congress:

In 2000 we passed Amendment 20, legalizing medical marijuana, Amendment 22, closing the gun-show loophole and Amendment 23, raising K-12 spending. In 2002 we passed Amendment 27, enacting campaign finance reform. In 2004 we passed Amendment 37, the country's first renewable energy mandate for utilities. In 2006 we passed Amendment 41, the country's strongest Ethics in Government law. In 2008 we passed Amendment 54, which prohibits government contractors from making campaign donations. In 2012 we passed Amendment 64, the country's first legal marijuana, and we voted 3 to 1 for Amendment 65, asking our Congressional Representatives to work to reverse Citizens United. (Only 1 of 7 did anything, showing how poorly they represent us.) And in 2016 we passed Amendment 70 for a $12/hr. minimum wage.

The worst ballot initiatives are nothing compared with the evil done by legislators, too. The worst ballot initiatives I know of were Colorado and California’s anti-gay initiatives. But they never went into effect, as all the courts declared them unconstitutional. Contrast this with all 50 state legislatures criminalizing sodomy, and jailing people for decades -and worse. Congress persecuted Communists and socialists and their friends during the McCarthy era. And Congress and all 50 state legislatures criminalized marijuana and destroyed millions of lives of smokers during almost eight decades.

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