We certainly understand the hostility that professional politicians exhibit against citizens using the tools of direct democracy. The People’s right of initiative, referendum and recall are effective tools to control an indolent or corrupt legislature.
The powers of direct democracy are enshrined in the California Constitution for reasons that are just as compelling in 2014 as they were in 1911 when Governor Hiram Johnson, seeking to suppress the absolute control the railroads had over the state Capitol, pushed to give ordinary citizens a “legislative battering ram” – using the language of the Supreme Court – to address issues that, for whatever reason, the legislature refuses to address.
Politicians hate the initiative process. From their perspective, it allows the great unwashed and unsophisticated to deal with matters such as taxation, victims’ rights, insurance and, most importantly, political reform. These are issues over which politicians strongly desire to exercise a legislative monopoly.
Like any political process, however, direct democracy can be abused. Some matters are indeed complicated and not well suited to a sound-bite campaign. Also, special interests with a lot of money can overwhelm the airwaves with TV and radio ads to convince a majority of voters (especially in a low turnout election) to pass something they might later regret.
But is the traditional legislative process any better?
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