Paul Jacob

The good senator is willing to offer us poor unwashed masses some advice, at least those in the Show-Me state:

Missourians would be wise to consider changing the margin now required for passage of these initiatives from a simple majority to a two-thirds super majority. Perhaps that would help dissuade special interests from using these petition drives and initiatives for their own narrow purposes.

Sounds like the establishment folks figure they can muster just a third of the vote. Thus, their view of democracy? If they only lose two-to-one, they should still rule over citizens any way they like.

But what’s this blather about “special interests”?

The most powerful special interests despise the initiative process and will assist politicians in trashing it. The special interest lobbies have power in the dim hallways and backrooms of the capitol, where they plead for special treatment at taxpayers’ expense. This dynamic means that special interests don’t fare nearly so well making their case to taxpayers directly.

Moreover, with all the obvious, and even admitted, special-interest influence in our legislatures, it is a joke to hype fears of such influence in the voter initiative process. Wherein voters can simply vote their interests. Something their representatives have such difficulty doing.

What is being advocated by Senator Gross is hardly unique. Political insiders in other states also advocate regulating voter initiatives in order to make it nearly impossible for voters to successfully check their wayward political servants. The message seems clear: Don’t let the people vote.

If the voters are so uninformed on issues that affect them, one wonders how they are deemed smart enough to know which blow-dried candidate is lying. (Answer? Both.)

Raising the bar to make citizen initiatives more difficult impacts the powerful groups the least. They can spend to overcome such hurdles. It’s the grassroots groups that get cut out.

And that’s no accident.

With so much of politics locked up by powerful career politicians and special interests, the voter initiative process is the one area they just can’t quite control. Voters are liable to think up all manners of reforms — from term limits to state spending caps. And no matter how much special interests spend, voters manage to enact critical reforms.

With government as big as Goliath, the initiative hands David a slingshot.

So, every year, as legislatures come back into session and lobbyists and politicians renew their conversations, we see efforts to gut the voter initiative process.

Perhaps we always will. There is a divide between those who seek to rule, in the name of the people, and those who wish to see the people rule, at least within the strict limits of the Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson noticed this long ago:

Men by their makeup are naturally divided into two camps: those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of higher classes; and those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them the safest and most honest, if not always the wisest repository of the public interest. These two camps exist in every country, and wherever men are free to think, speak, and write, they will identify themselves.

Hats off to you, Mr. Gross, for your clarity in this argument.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.