Trusting the Voters Turns Out Not Bad

Ballot Elections National Politics Politics

            Brussels          In the United States, real populists, meaning candidates who really believe in the people, rather than being demagogues and wannabe-autocrats, believed in the initiative and recall process, solidified in a number of states in the Progressive Era, more than one-hundred years ago.  Certainly, not all states have them.  They were in fact more popular where Populists had been a factor in local and state politics, meaning mainly in the West and South, outside of the influence of big city machines.  Over the last century, political parties, especially the Republicans, but sometimes the Democrats as well, have steadily tried to erode the ability of voters to initiate their own legislation through the referendum process.  In the current midterms there were even initiatives that sought to make it harder to get initiatives on the ballot.  In states, like Florida, there have been steady Republican efforts to raise the bar on the initiative process on both the petitioning side and the threshold to achieve ballot status, but the same thing has happened in cities like New Orleans.

Why, you might ask, would politicians, who depend on the support of the voters, resist allowing the voters themselves to put issues on the ballot to voice their preferences and put them into law?  The answer is simple.  When politicians see themselves as better representatives of what they feel is “best” for the people, and in many cases full well know that the people they represent don’t agree, the last thing they want is for the actual voters to put their faith in democracy, rather than representation, and force their will on their elected government.

The midterms are once again an example of the power of the people, when they are allowed to have a voice.  I say that, even though I might not agree with some of the results.  The results are still incontestably better.  Let’s look at some of the results:

  • South Dakota, joined five other states, in approving expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Nebraska voters approved raising the minimum wage in steps until January 2026 to $15 per hour from $7.25, equivalent to the federal level now.
  • Voters approved pre-Kindergarten funding in New Mexico and Colorado voters approved universal free school lunches for all public-school children.
  • In the very, very conservative and divided state of Arizona, voters approved a 3% cap on medical debt, while a Democrat is leading for the Senate, and, seemingly, for the governor’s chair.
  • Illinois voted to add a constitutional amendment, guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining and blocking any effort to create a right-to-work condition, and District of Columbia voters acted to raise the hourly rate and abolish the tip credit, allowing service workers to be paid the full minimum.
  • Voters approved legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland and Missouri, while rejecting in Arkansas, South and North Dakota.
  • Involuntary prison labor was eliminated through ballot initiatives in four states — Tennessee, Alabama, Oregon, and Vermont, and I wish Louisiana had been on that list, but wishing and hoping is not the way voting works.
  • California, Michigan, and Vermont passed state constitutional amendments to protect reproductive freedom or autonomy. In Kentucky, voters refused to amend the constitution to state that it doesn’t include a right to abortion.
  • Voters in key battlegrounds, reacted to the craziness and division, and engaged in robust split-ticket voting.

I could go on and on.  There was no “red wave”.  There was no “blue wave”.  Voters hunkered down, refusing to allow themselves to be “spun”, one way or another, not in every case, but in many cases.  The Trumpian view, maintained by many Republicans, remember Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate, and some Democrats, sadly recall Hilary’s “deplorables”, is that voters are all sheep, losers, and worse.

Win or lose, I’d rather put our issues and interests in the hands of the people than any of these politicians, no matter what party they claim or line they talk.  How about more of this?