Washington State voters moved in some truly progressive historical directions on election night.
We voted to let gay citizens of our state live and love as they wish and get married if they want. We voted to legalize marijuana — a drug far less dangerous than booze and cigarettes but its criminalization has cost our state billions in law enforcement, lawyers, the courts, prisons and destroyed the lives of thousands of otherwise law bidding citizens.
Not only will the destructive enforcement stop but now marijuana will be regulated and taxed and badly needed revenues will start coming into our anemic state treasury. Not to mention the many medical uses the drug has potential to mitigate and provide relief for many illnesses.
We voted for President Obama in big numbers and generally voted to reject a political party that has come to reflect greed, racism, sexism, oligarchy and a just plain mean-spirited approach to politics. But Washington voters made two very bad decisions. They voted to approve Initiative 1185, a measure to require a two-thirds vote on any tax increase by the state legislature, and Initiative 1240, putting the state on the road to charter schools and turning them into business ventures for vulture capitalists.
Of the two bad decisions, Initiative 1185 – the two-thirds requirement — is by far the worse because it is a knife into the heart of democracy itself. The honest title for this initiative should have been “Initiative to kill democracy in Washington State.” Because that is what it is – period!
My encyclopedia defines democracy as “a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that effect their lives. Democracy allows people to participate equally – either directly or through elected representatives.”
Under Initiative 1185, one-third of the legislature will hold the power. “Equality” — not hardly! Does this sound like “democracy” to you? When a minority – in this case legislators representing only one-third of the state’s population – control the economic agenda for all of us, that is not democracy!
Unbelievable as it is to me this anti-democratic farce has been passed now five times! Yet the state’s progressive community responsible this year for some of the most liberal legislation passed in the country have not been able in five elections to explain or defend basic democratic concepts to the voters!
At least part of an answer lies in the liberal political establishment’s commitment to “special interest” political issues and organizing around those issues only. Democracy just has no constituency on the American left. The liberal philosophical commitment to “individual fetishism” factors into this because after-all “democracy” is at its core about “community” which liberals often view as “the mob”.
But ... but ... sputter the liberals, “We are challenging the two-thirds minority rule in court!” And indeed they are ... after 12 years, with little enthusiasm! As usual, the argument against the super majority from the liberals is overly legalistic and confusing to the general public.
The battle for democracy in Washington State ultimately must be won in the court of public opinion not with pontification of lawyers. The success of the initiatives on marijuana and gay marriage should make that abundantly clear. Voters must be educated and understand issues they come to support.
The case against the super majority must be argued clearly and simply in the public forum. Initiative 1185 is a dirty and under-handed attack by the plutocracy on majority rule – an attack on equality plus an attack and reputation of democracy in Washington State.
But once again, as we have seen so many times in the past, Washington State Democrats, Liberals and their progressive allies are bringing a library book to a knife fight!
Bill Johnston is a retired staff organizer of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2012
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