Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Prop Giveth, The Prop Taketh Away

From the "what, you say it like it's a bad thing" Files:

LAT writer Dan Morain looks the perils of "direct democracy" (yes, that's an appropriate use of quotes as well as a snarkified use of "scare quotes" - insert finger motion here" and lessons Schwarzenegger is learning already:

Fewer than a fourth of the initiatives proposed ever make it to the ballot in California, and nearly two-thirds of those that go to a state vote fail. There are many reasons why.

Initiative promoters make mistakes when they write them. Backers miscalculate their support; foes outflank and outspend them. Initiative promoters can't control their ideas once they become public. And for the most part, voters are skeptics.
Morain implies in these grafs that failed initiatives are - well - a failure. Non-passage, in fact, is much a success for the system as passage. Morain cites what he sees as missteps along the way that have already cost Schwarzenegger one proposal and may soon take down others. Miscalculating opposition stregnth, drafting errors, unfortunate-for-him titles and summaries . . . . True, they may bode ill for Schwarzenegger's chances of adding another notch on his electoral bedpost, but does it really hurt California?

Obviously, I'd argue the answer to that is no.

My point: it's not a bad thing that so many initiatives fail. In this climate, when the initiatives are offered specifically to circumvent the Legislature - that's your Legislature, kids - then they absolutely should fail since they haven't been properly contemplated by representatives nor given the chance to be properly contemplated by voters who are bombarded with soundbite crap instead of intelligent discourse on the proposals.

It's an interesting piece on the troubles facing Schwarzenegger - so as a Democrat, I love it. Anything that helps highlight the true nature of his new clothes is fabulous. But as an objective political analysis, it fails on its face because its basic assumption - that a proposition failing is a problem - is flawed. Deeply.

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