Today, I revel in the peacefulness of Christmas, or at least the joy of being with my family. Tomorrow, the celebration of Chanukah begins for my Jewish friends. For this brief time, we in politics can catch a quiet respite from the bitter political storms brewing for 2006.
But the harsh battles will return soon enough, and we'll have to both welcome and reject the malevolence of today's politics.
We should welcome the fact that our opposition's anti-democratic tactics signal weakness, not strength. But we must reject the harshness inherent in their terrible tenet that the end justifies the means. Agree or not, we must respect the rights of voters. Win or lose, we must always respect the process and the right of the people to decide.
After all, a world of rights and respect is what we're fighting for. This is civilization and this is good.
Unfortunately, the battles of 2006 will likely be anything but civilized.
Three weeks ago, I wrote about the campaign by the Oklahoma Education Association and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association to block a citizen petition drive seeking to place on the ballot a cap on Oklahoma state government spending. These unions hired an organizer from Oregon and launched an effort to block, harass, and intimidate people who were petitioning their government. In many documented cases, the tactics were not only unethical, they also constituted serious civil rights violations.
Now the same war has broken out in a similar way in Michigan, where again leftist agitators seek to shout down and shut down democracy. Apparently, advocates of big government will go to enormous lengths to stop democracy. Mob rule is alive and well as a political theory. And even those holding office will opt for politics instead of fulfilling the public trust. The issue that they hold above (and to the exclusion of) all other principles? Affirmative action.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court hasn't helped matters much; its mixed and muddled decisions on two affirmative action regarding the University of Michigan has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
While the university's undergraduate admissions policy of rewarding minority applicants with additional points for having a preferred race was found unconstitutional by the high court, the university's law school policy of using race more subjectively was allowed. The decisions suggest that numerical standards are out, but wink-and-nod racial preferences are just okie-dokie. At least, for another 25 years, according to the constitutional impressionism of Judge O'Connor.
Preferring a less blurry vision of law, certain Michigan citizens — more than 500,000 in all — petitioned to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The measure, if passed by Michigan voters, would end racial preferences in government employment, school admissions, and state contracting. These Michigan citizens have a right to fair treatment of their petition, like their idea or not (for the record: I do). Remember: that right is guaranteed in the First Amendment.
But fairness is not what they received.
The Michigan Board of Canvassers repeatedly denied the proponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) and the people of Michigan their rights to vote on a lawfully qualified ballot measure.
The ballot initiative clearly had enough signatures. The only reason the measure has not been certified is that the majority of the BOC let their personal political opinions trump the law.
The Board is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans. Certifying an initiative requires three votes. So this summer the Board threw duty to the wind and embraced their personal political agenda by refusing to certify the initiative for the ballot. Then, recently, the BOC began mysteriously canceling meetings so that the measure continued to be denied ballot placement.
This is not the first time the Michigan BOC (dream up your own acronym) has denied the civil rights of Michigan voters in order to play their personal political games. As I informed my Common Sense readers last year, the BOC also violated the law in attempting to prevent the gay marriage ban and the presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader from finding their way onto the ballot in 2004.
This Board should be abolished and the functions of certifying petitions placed with Michigan's Secretary of State. But it is worth noting that this dysfunctional board is yet another "bi-partisan" government tribunal — more political than legal in its actions. Our founders warned us about factions and yet today there are more and more quasi-judicial bodies of government, from the Federal Election Commission to the Michigan Board of Canvassers, composed of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. It is as though justice (or the escape thereof) is only for Democrats and Republicans. Not for everyone.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative's proponents, including Jennifer Gratz, a plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case and State Rep. Leon Drolet, went to court to force the BOC to do its job. Michigan's Court of Appeals responded to the case by issuing a strongly worded order to the BOC to do its duty and certify the measure.
So on December 14 the BOC met to vote on the MCRI. The meeting was well-attended, if not attended-to well.
A group calling itself the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary decided to bring its own lawlessness to the meeting. This gang of loudmouth political agitators has expropriated Malcolm X's famous line and is known as "By Any Means Necessary," or BAMN. The word "lawful" is nowhere to be found as a modifier for "means."
BAMN, like its counterparts elsewhere, seeks to block a vote of the people. The people must not be allowed to decide. For their own sake, no doubt. By any means necessary.
The means chosen for the December 14 meeting? Chaos and intimidation in general, unruly students in particular. They bussed 250 Detroit public high school students to the meeting. Whenever cued by the adult instigators acting as their guardians, i.e. when the BOC began to vote on MCRI being placed on the 2006 ballot, these students would shout loudly. Give the agitators credit: you can't beat the high school pep rally experience.
When the shouting didn't seem to be enough, these students were corralled to the front of the room where they pushed over a table. Twelve police officers rushed in. (By the way, how does a group like BAMN come up with 250 high school students during a school day? Do our kids double as rent-a-protestors when we drop them off at school? Do they get extra credit for trampling democracy?) The strategy worked. The BOC meeting was abruptly canceled.
Yet, before the meeting broke up, in the midst of all the din, the Board actually did manage to vote on MCRI. And, once again, it failed to garner the necessary three votes to certify the measure for the ballot.
Board of Canvassers member Lynn Banks, who voted in favor of certification on the 14th but had refused to do so before the court order, said, "I have never in my 20 years of service seen such anarchy and lawlessness." But there was certainly plenty of lawlessness to go around, including (previously) her own.
Fortunately for the citizens of Michigan, the Michigan Court of Appeals over-rode the BOC and placed the initiative on the ballot for 2006.
Today, many leftists who call themselves "progressives" have turned against democracy. Instead, they embrace themselves as Marx's vanguard of the proletariat. Since the far left can't trust the little guy to vote they way they tell him to vote, then votes must be blocked, speech must be drowned out, political participation squelched.
Enjoy the holidays. For we have a tough battle ahead for the soul of America.