Paul Jacob

Even the world's most repressive regimes often have laws on the books that pretend to grant citizens certain political rights. What matters is the extent to which citizens are actually allowed to use those rights — you know, in real life.

In Michigan, taxpayers are now trying to recall ten state legislators, and in the process testing how "real life" their democratic rights are.

The ten targeted solons come from both parties. Prior to their fateful votes to raise taxes against their constituent wishes, taxpayer groups repeatedly warned them that a recall effort would be launched against them if they voted for the $1.6 billion dollar tax increase. And yet, a few months ago, vote for the tax boost they did. And it passed, adding yet more depressive burden to the state's lingering recession.

Michiganders, and all people for that matter, are free to agree or disagree on taxes, as well as with recall campaigns. But it remains an undisputed fact: the Michigan constitution does provide citizens with a process for recall.

But does the right to recall mean anything to politicians, practically?

State Representative Tim Allen says, "The fight is to keep them off the ballot." Notice: His goal isn't to win an election. It is to prevent the voters from ever getting the opportunity to decide.

State House Democrats plan to use "blockers" against the recall petitioners. One Democrat, unnamed in media reports, says the plan is to "shadow" or "follow" those who circulate the petition and "have a debate with each potential signer in an attempt to convince them not to sign the recalls."

In other words, a campaign of stalking and voter intimidation.

We've seen this before — in Michigan and elsewhere. It is a tactic of increasing popularity on the big-government left. Hire blockers to swarm around petitioners at the mall or grocery store or library, creating angry street theater to scare away normal folks wishing to sign a petition.

"In past petition drives where blockers were employed, these blockers have often screamed at citizens attempting to sign petitions, or argued with petitioners every time a citizen approaches to sign the petition," explains Leon Drolet, head of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. "Opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative petition drive went as far as to approach tables set up by petition gatherers and pour water over the signed petitions."

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.