The will of the people

In most cases, the fact that many states have passed laws banning gay marriage is not actually based on the actual will of the people, but only on the will of those willing to get out and vote. This is evidenced by all sorts of polls.

And the gay marriage issue is telling of what is wrong with a lot of public policy issues. Many of our national policies do not reflect the will of the people.

Now, we live in a republic, where we supposedly elect wise people to represent us, and not simply make knee-jerk reactions to popular ideas. But there are cases where the public’s opinion can and should be manifest in law. Referenda on the right for gay people to marry – or to “maintain the sanctity of heterosexual marriage,” seem to be popular ideas, and appropriate. A referendum is not best for every issue, however. For example, whether to go to war; but look where that got us. If we lived in a true democracy, I suppose we would be voting nearly constantly; I can’t imagine how that would ever work.

There is a constant and justified struggle about whether government officials should make our rules, versus the popular mood. A much less desirable struggle twe are suffering under, called rule of the activist. The Tea Party vote took Dick Lugar out of office, and gave stature to the Texas Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz against republican David Dewhurst (funny how Democrats in Texas get next to no press at all). It’s the crazies and the senior citizens that are pushing their ideas on the rest of us. The world would be a different place if the rest of us actually voted.

And we have only ourselves to blame. How come normal people don’t vote? Partly it’s because the crazies are so loud and annoying. Partly because you can’t vote on your phone or computer, and there are families and jobs to occupy people. Or is it because there are a lot of bums around?


About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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One Response to The will of the people

  1. JP says:

    Referendums generally don’t work well. I think every ballot referendum on same sex marriage has been defeated, even in California. It takes movements and brave people fighting to change things. Women didn’t win the right to vote by getting men to put a referendum on a ballot and vote for it. So I agree with you on referendums. How come normal people don’t vote. Your ideas are certainly part of it. It’s also because they get caged and disenfranchised (as is going on in FL right now in a repeat of 2000; thank you governor Scott…) and get beaten down by reality and seeing that nothing changes, because, as you pointed out, politicians do not enact policies that reflect the will of the people, they enact policies that reflect the will of the rich guys who bought them their office. I heard today that 98% of Americans never donate to political campaigns. And now this year you have individuals like the Koch brothers who plan to pour in $400 million or so of their own cash. When you hear that, it is hard to sustain belief that your one vote matters. It does, and only if we can convince everyone of that and they go vote.

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