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Vox Populi, Vox Diddlysquat

One of the more disturbing trends I've been seeing grow over the past few years -- or longer -- is the unwillingness to trust the American people to, when given the chance, to choose to do the right thing. The notion of letting the people decide matters for themselves, to accept the responsibility of making major decisions and living with the consequences, has been falling further and further into disuse -- and it troubles me.

Sometimes it's on the small scale. Take, for example, seat belts. I am a seat belt militant. I sometimes put mine on while backing out of the garage. If you ride with me, you WILL wear your seat belt. It's "my way or the highway," and those that don't like it can find their own way.

But that's not how a lot of states see it. They see that seat belts are, overall, a good thing, so they insist that everyone wear them. Even those whose lives would be endangered by wearing one -- for example, extremely short people who drive cars with air bags run the risk of having their necks broken when in a collision, when their close proximity to the steering wheel and the restraint of the air bags can combine to kill them. So seat belt usage is mandatory for everyone in many states.

Another is in the possession of handguns. The Constitution says that the people have the right to keep and bear arms, but it's still regulated heavily. In fact, in many areas, it's essentially forbidden. And the American Civil Liberties Union, as a matter of formal policy, says that the 2nd Amendment is unique in American law in that it cites not an individual right, but a "collective" right -- and no individual is entitled to exercise it on their own.

Again, it is a matter of the state simply not trusting the citizens to act in a responsible and reasonable manner. Because some act in an irresponsible manner, all must pay the price.

And now we're seeing it in the issue of gay marriage, especially in Massachusetts.

The essence of the problem with gay marriage in Massachusetts is that the people of the Bay State have elected a permanent group of cowards to their legislature.

When the issue of gay marriage first came up in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court essentially told the legislature to get off their collective asses and make a law or amendment or something, or they WILL make it legal by judicial fiat. The lawmakers hemmed and hawed and farted around and, in the end, did nothing -- and the court decided that gay marriage was just fine and dandy.

Then the people started getting annoyed. They wanted the chance to vote on the matter, so they looked at the state's constitution. If they could get enough signatures on petitions calling for a Constitutional amendment, then it would go on the ballot and they could vote on it.

The only hurdle was the craven lawmakers on Beacon Hill, who saw that the rules said they needed a three-quarters vote to kill it -- and the proponents only needed one-quarter of the legislature to approve placing the measure up for a public vote.

Then they found a loophole. They could simply refuse to vote on it. They could just keep postponing and postponing the vote during the session, then let the clock run out and gosh darn it, they ran out of time. That's what they did last time, and it's what they are doing this year.

So, how is this flagrant insult to the people of the state and violation of their Constitutional duty going over?

Well, according to the Boston Globe, pretty darned well. And what does the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union say about this? They approve wholeheartedly.

I think it's fair to say that, in the long run, when given the chance, the American people tend to make the right choice. For example, look at slavery and civil rights. When brought to the courts' attention, they first ruled in favor of the Fugitive Slave Act. Then, they enshrined the doctrine of "separate but equal" and the principles of segregation. When they got around to dealing with THAT mess in the 50's, it STILL wasn't really meaningful. It wasn't until a critical mass of the people finally spoke out and said that institutionalized segregation was unfair and unacceptable, and got their elected representatives (President Johnson and enough of the Congress), that the civil rights movement actually started winning real victories.

It all boils down to the simple question: do you trust the people to make the right choices, or do you think that some matters are so fundamental and simple that the answer is obvious, yet the majority of the people are so stupid or malicious that they will deliberately side against them?

In Alan Moore's brilliant masterpiece, he opined that "people should not fear their government. Government should fear the people." I'm not quite sure I go to that extreme, but I think it is far healthier for laws to be aimed at protecting people from their government, than for laws to be used to protect government from their people.

In Massachusetts, we're seeing the legislature trying desperately to deny the people their constitutional right to change their constitution -- and make no mistake, they have found a way to effectively destroy the petition process whereby they can change their Constitution. And it's not just about gay marriage -- another petition they eliminated would have mandated health care for all residents.

Me, I'll side with letting the people decide the big issues. By and large, they eventually do the right thing.

(Editor's note: third from final paragraph rephrased because, well, it sucked. Thanks, Dave, for pointing out I'd bobbled the phrasing.)


Comments (12)

"I think it is far healthie... (Below threshold)
Dave:

"I think it is far healthier for a people to need protection from their government, than for a government to need protection from their people."

Er, did you reverse that?

Jay, your theory sounds goo... (Below threshold)
ted:

Jay, your theory sounds good, except last week the people/voters of America decided either to abandon the war on Islamo terror, or deem that such a war doesn't exist.

Do you think the American people/voters did the right thing?

Mandated health *care*, or ... (Below threshold)

Mandated health *care*, or mandated health *insurance*? There's a big difference.

My personal position on the... (Below threshold)
Tony:

My personal position on the whole gay marriage issue: If you simply call it a civil union, nobody would have a problem. Don't go for the 'M' word, and even the reddest of states would pass the measure because the 'M' word has religious as well as civil implications. What is gay marriage called in Canada? Let's call it that and get on with it. To me, the 'gay marriage issue' is the same boogeyman for the left that the 'attack on Christmas issue' is to the right. But I'm an agnostic in Chicago, so what do I know? (I feel like I'm a casual observer of both)

And Ted: When it comes down to it, America will do the right thing on foreign policy, too. The hawks are one side of our brain, and the doves are the other. Combined, the right choice will be made in the end, just maybe not right now.

Tony: How many Americans wi... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

Tony: How many Americans will die in terrorists attacks on American before one side of the brain gets in line with the side that strives to protect the American people?

Scrapiron,I don't ... (Below threshold)
Tony:

Scrapiron,

I don't know, hopefully zero. But what's really going on in the Middle East, combined with the ever-increasing smallness of our planet will elucidate the problem when it has to (Like right now on Michael Totten's web page, the commenters are arguing with an actual hezbollah member).

...but if that happened (a massive attack on us like a nuke), there would be a whole shit storm of destruction (my guess is chemical or biological) coming out of our end on a much wider swath of land than just one country. I think that while our media never really tells us that, hopefully enough people get it, so it won't have to come to that. At the same time I am continually amazed at the energy directed by the left at U.S. Catholicism (except for the pedophilia, that's deserved) as a threat to our way of life while there's an actual living breathing theocratic/religious threat just over there on the other side of our planet.

In fact, in many a... (Below threshold)
jpe:
In fact, in many areas, it's essentially forbidden

So you're all for lawmaking through legislation except when you disagree with the laws. Gotcha.

1) People are stupid<... (Below threshold)
Headzero:

1) People are stupid

2) People make decisions without thinking them through (see #1)

3) People regret their decisions (see #1)

4) People ask those that they elect (see #1) to make rules for them (see #1)

5) People regret decisions made for them by those they designated to make decisions for them (see #1)

6) People get angry with those that make decisions for them (see #1)

7) People get new people to make decisions for them based on hollow promises that 'things will be different' (see #2)

Repeat forever.

There is no escape.

The people of Mass can wall... (Below threshold)
JB:

The people of Mass can wallow in the big pile of steamy liberal dung that they voted into power. There's only one way to fix this problem and that's to stop voting for Democrats. There's no way they'll do that so screw 'em.

Headzero, easily the most i... (Below threshold)

Headzero, easily the most insightful and intelligent post I've seen in ages.

One of the best articles ev... (Below threshold)
kevino:

One of the best articles ever written about cun control is "A Nation of Cowards" by Jeffrey Snyder:

The liberal elite know that they are philosopher-kings. They know that the people simply cannot be trusted; that they are incapable of just and fair self-government; that left to their own devices, their society will be racist, sexist, homophobic, and inequitable -- and the liberal elite know how to fix things. They are going to help us live the good and just life, even if they have to lie to us and force us to do it. And they detest those who stand in their way.

jpe, don't sprain your arm ... (Below threshold)

jpe, don't sprain your arm patting yourself on the back. The Massachusetts legislature did NOT change the law; they found a way to violate the state constitution with impunity. Their exploiting a loophole -- that if they just "run out the clock" on voting on petition-advanced proposed amendments -- they can thwart the Constitutional intention that it takes a 3/4 majority to kill a petition, and instead quash it with a simple majority.

And the voters keep re-electing these weasels.

So, in the context of my piece, I damn the legislators for their weaseling, but the people are obviously not outraged by it, because they keep re-electing them instead of punishing them through the ballot box, so they are getting the government they deserve.

J.




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