Paul Jacob

Voltaire is credited with the statement: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Freedom and democracy necessarily rest upon this sentiment, an attitude that today we find in dangerously short supply. Instead, politics has become a blood sport.

That’s what WDIV-TV, Detroit’s channel 4 said in a news report concerning folks called “blockers,” whose job is to stop voters from signing a petition.

In this case, the petition is to recall Michigan’s Speaker of the House Andy Dillon over a massive tax increase. People are hurting in Michigan. But legislators — led by Dillon — decided taxpayers should hurt some more. They raised taxes so that government spending could grow more than three-quarters of a billion dollars.

During the legislative debate, taxpayers threatened legislators with recall over the tax hike. Now they’re doing the politically unthinkable: keeping their word.

Of course, Michigan’s political elite has derided the recall with hysteria and hyperbole: How dare the people use a legal process to hold their representatives accountable?!

I, on the other hand, find the recall effort eminently reasonable.

But whether Dillon is to be recalled should not be up to the elite — or to me. It should be up to whether enough citizens in the district freely sign the petition and, if enough voters sign, how residents then decide to cast their votes.

But the blockers seek to remove “freely sign” from my previous sentence. At The New Media Journal, Warner Todd Huston writes that “blockers scream at petition signers, calling them names, and hover menacingly over them making them feel threatened and intimidated.” Rose Bogaert of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association told reporters, “They’re literally behaving like thugs out there. They’ve torn up our petitions, followed us home. . . .”

Who are these brutes? It turns out many of them are on the state payroll. In fact, several work for none other than Speaker Dillon.

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.