Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hijacking our representative government

My thanks to Metro councilmen who aren't afraid to have citizens actually vote on how their government should be run. I'm appalled at the lengths some of these councilmen, election commission members, our mayor, a judge and others have gone through to keep we the people from actually entering into the process. The latest trick was to break the law and attempt to withhold money to provide for a special election for two charter amendments. Money that wouldn't have to be expended at all if the Democrat controlled election commission hadn't decided to misinterpret the time frame provided for in law in a trick to keep the people from voting.

Here are the names of the councilmen who fully understand who has a right to be in charge of their very own government:

Buddy Baker
Karen Bennett
Carl Burch
Phil Claiborne,
Sam Coleman
Michael Craddock
Eric Crafton
Duane Dominy
Robert Duvall
Jim Forkum
Randy Foster
Jim Gotto
Frank Harrison
Jim Hodge
Pam Murray
Rip Ryman
Bruce Stanley
Charlie Tygard

And with the notable exception of Jerry Maynard who had the guts to vote NO and earns respect for at least stepping up to the plate, the rest abstained from voting. Oh...that's leadership.

And speaking of that English as Official Language charter amendment David Briley (former councilman at large, mayoral candidate and grandson of a former mayor) has penned an email blast that is remarkably offensive. Looks like name calling is about all this lawyer could come up with to defend his point of view on this issue. That doesn't speak well for Briley's debate skills to be sure.

Briley calls supporters of Nashville's business being conducted in English unwelcoming, backwards, right-wing reactionaries, right-wingers, and states that we're "hijacking our representative government". EXCUUUUUUUSE ME? You've got to be kidding. Supporters have been all about letting our representative government work as it's supposed to. If anyone's been doing the hijacking it's the opponents to the charter amendments who are in such great fear of we the people that they've expended a great deal of effort and political favors in seeing to it that this amendment is kept from the voters.

The only tactic they have left to them is to try and not offend unwelcoming, backwards, right-wing reactionaries to the point we're inflamed enough to rush to the polls come hell or highwater and hope that we forget that there is an election while opponenets of English as our Official Language carpool every available voter to the polls to vote against it.

This screen shot from where the Democrat controlled Election Commission mentions when early voting ENDS but fails to mention when it BEGINS.

Early voting starts Friday, January 2, 2009.

The last day to vote early is Saturday January 17, 2009.

Election Day is THURSDAY, January 22. Don't forget. Vote early so that inclimate weather, unexpected illnes or something else doesn't get in the way.

Here are links to the actual amendments, as well as where to vote and when.


N.S. Allen said...

The funny (or, really, not funny and, instead, disturbingly paradoxical) thing about modern, American democracy is that, sometimes, letting the people directly vote is one of the worst ways to let them control their own government.

It's not even that difficult a phenomenon to observe. Take, for instance, the school board. According to the Election Commission, only 7.13% of voters went to the polls for the most recent school board election. The only lower turnout levels that the Commission lists took place during councilman run-offs or special elections for specific districts. (And a few of the latter actually bested the school board election turnout.)

Now, obviously, there were districts where no school board member was up for re-election, so (ignoring the other races) we should expect lower than average turnout...but over 23% lower than, say, the turnout for the mayoral race in '07? That's tiny - and, as a result, the school board's members are allowed a huge accountability gap. Even though we allow for their direct election for the sake of democracy, that election really allows a tiny minority to make the decisions that everyone ought to be weighing in on.

Unfortunately, you see a similarly dramatic narrowing of the voting electorate when you look at minor or specials elections like run-offs...or, say, ballot initiatives.

As a result, putting an issue up for a vote by the "people" often really equals an attempt to take an issue to a marginal percentage of the population - to sidestep the people and go to the base, wagering that your base will be more involved than the other extreme's. As with school board elections, the actual will of the people as a whole is totally ignored. It doesn't enter into the equation at any point.

Alternatively, if you leave issues like this up to elected officials like, say, council members, the odds are good that more people will vote for or against their election and the decisions on such issues will actually be more firmly connected to the will of the people.

Of course, you could say that the voters that ignore such issues are effectively abstaining and saying that they don't care about such matters. Leaving aside the possible validity of this objection, though, the fact remains that, with ballot initiatives, what we have is not even vaguely like the people controlling their government. It's shifting government into the hands of the interested few, the passionate but miniscule minority.

If we want the people to run their government, we should recognize trends like these and structure the electoral process to avoid its present pitfalls - in school board elections, in ballot initiatives, and elsewhere.

Kay Brooks said...

I understand that democracy is dangerous. I appreciate that I live in a representative republic.

If you don't like the current rules work to change the law. Don't short circuit the system with political shenanigans. Let's not forget that last year's Metro Council (elected to represent 'we the people') passed this legislation and it was vetoed by one man---Mayor Purcell who was term limited and had nothing to lose politically as he beating feet out of town to Harvard. He took the hit for councilmen with no backbone.

Let's not diminish the support that Crafton has for this English as Official Language amendment. The first time (August) he gathered more than 12,000 signatures and 'only' needed 10,000. The second time, November, he gathered over 5,000 and only needed 2475. He easily met a very high bar the first time.

Finally, we cannot make people vote. And I dare say there are plenty of folks who have no clue what they're voting on and that's tremendously frustrating BUT it's the system we have. If you're not interested in how your government is run and choose to abstain---that's your right but don't expect us to bend over backwards to accommodate your lack of interest. It's not perfect but it's a whole lot better than some elite cadre of our betters dictating life to the rest of us.