Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tyrannical Rule In California

Only days after California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB48 (the LGBT history bill) into law, social conservative groups are already going on the offensive. Today, the Capitol Resource Institute's Paulo Sibaja filed with the California Attorney General his intent to put a referendum on the 2012 ballot to attempt to repeal the bill. According to the San Francisco Chronicle,
The Capitol Resource Institute is a hard-line, socially conservative organization that has long opposed efforts in California to expand rights for the LGBT population. Backers eventually would have to collect 433,971 signatures to allow voters to decide whether to keep the law in place or reject it. 
Sibaja said that a coalition has formed behind the proposed measure, though he would not name the other members. He said a news conference Wednesday would give more details. When asked how the group planned to fund the referendum, he said, "That's what the press conference will be about."
     This is the problem with California's system; the broad ability of "the people" to vote on legislation duly enacted by the legislature.  When our system of government was formed, the Founders recognized the ultimate authority of the people, yet at the same time realized that the people were fickle; that they could be swayed by their emotions and prejudices to do things that they would not normally do. Because of this danger, the Founding Fathers set up a brilliant system; a system, though not perfect, that would alleviate the emotive dangers of direct "popular rule". Instead of allowing for popular voting on issues, the Founders set up a system in which the people elect representatives who represent their constituents in the legislature. The few, with the consent of the many, make the laws and rule over the state.

     But in California, the tables have turned. Instead of the few ruling over the many, we have the many using the few as their "rubber stamp of approval". The legislature of California does not "make the laws" per say, instead, it only exists because it is more "efficient" in passing laws. For the public to take up every piece of legislation through direct vote would be quite cumbersome, so therefore, the legislature exists to speed up and simplify the process. But, if the legislature dares to do anything that "the people" would not have done, it can be disciplined through a ballot referendum or initiative.

     I see that this process has two consequences.  First, it cheapens the purpose of the legislature as a representative body; for if they are just there for making governance more simple, why do we have elections in the first place? And second, it allows the public to be swayed by the demagogic influences of mass media, fears, and emotive language (Proposition 8 was a good example of this) rather than actually weigh the issue at hand.

     Some critics of my view on the referendum process will say that the true power of government rests with the people, and that is how the Founding Fathers wanted it to be. That is an extent. As I said above, the Founders recognized the negative repercussions of popular rule; thus instituting the system of representative democracy that we have today.  If a legislature had passed a bill which the public disagreed with, the Founders would have been hesitant in proposing a public referendum. Instead, they would have argued that if the public was truly unhappy over the issue, they would change the composition of the legislature in the next election. That would be legitimate change, and would adequately allow the public voice to be heard.

     The Founders set up a brilliant system, which most state governments are modeled after. Sadly, California has allowed for "the people" to rule over the representatives through illegitimate means. This not only makes a mockery of the "representative democracy" facade that California has, but it also leaves the public open to being swayed by fears and opinions rather than facts.

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