As government teachers routinely remind students, the United States is a representative democracy. The Founders were worried about excessive ?majoritarianism??which they equated to government by mob rule. Representative government was their solution: we elect people to make decisions, because most of those decisions require deliberation, study and expertise. Citizens retain control by reserving the right to vote those same people out of office if we decide they aren?t making good decisions.
Remember Ross Perot? One of his campaign’s loonier ideas was technology that would put a button in every living room, so that citizens could bypass legislators and vote directly on all sorts of issues—a web-enabled “town meeting” approach to governing. Imagine the possibilities—let’s all decide on the proper level of particle emissions! Let’s not confirm that judicial nominee!
As government teachers routinely remind students, the United States is a representative democracy. The Founders were worried about excessive “majoritarianism”—which they equated to government by mob rule. Representative government was their solution: we elect people to make decisions, because most of those decisions require deliberation, study and expertise. Citizens retain control by reserving the right to vote those same people out of office if we decide they aren’t making good decisions.
This representative system doesn’t work if we make it impossible for officeholders to do the jobs they are elected to do, which is one of the many reasons Senate Bill 1 is such a bad idea.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Luke Kenley (a bright man who should know better) would make it much easier to stop government projects. It would reduce the number of signatures needed to begin the remonstrance process, and would prohibit schools and other units of government from funding signature drives, or even gathering signatures on government property.
Senate Bill 1 is being promoted as a way to keep taxes low by preventing “unnecessary” construction projects. From a politician’s perspective, it is the best of all worlds, because the bill would virtually cripple the ability of government units to fight any remonstrance but would not require that elected officials take responsibility for killing the projects involved. When the old school or jail is inadequate or overcrowded, those charged with responsibility for education or incarceration can just point to “the will of the voters.” Of course, anyone who has ever been involved with a bond issue knows that there is a small group of people who will fight any proposed project, no matter how prudent or necessary, and that it is far easier to get signatures against “raising taxes” than for a bond issue. By dramatically reducing the level of effort necessary to defeat a project, Senate Bill 1 simply hands a veto to any small group of activists, who can either leverage that veto to gain concessions they couldn’t get otherwise, or use it to frustrate the ability of officeholders to govern.
Indiana has historically taken the notion of representation seriously. We do not have recalls and referenda, and have thus far been able to avoid turning our state into California, where voters recently chose their Governor from a line-up that included a porn star and the Terminator, and where voters routinely face hundreds of Propositions each election day.
We pay officeholders to make decisions, including decisions whether a construction project is necessary. We should insist that they earn that pay. Senate Bill 1 should go the way of Ross Perot—far away.