Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Here are some thoughts on some news bits:

"Judicial activism" is simply what conservatives call it when they disagree with judges' rulings. Anything more than a peripheral glance at most cases will reveal that judges "legislating from the bench" simply means "judges interpreting the law in a way that conservatives don't like." By any definition of "judicial activism" I've ever read, Brown v. The Board of Education fits the bill. (The Supreme Court deciding the outcome of an election, on the other hand, does not count apparently.)

I will be interested to hear from all the congressmen who publicly stated, when Bush chose two justices and some Democrats raised questions about them, something along the lines of "One of the rights of winning the election is getting to pick Supreme Court justices, so Bush should get his way."

The upholding of Proposition 8 in California may in the long run do more for the cause of equal marriage rights. The tide is shifting in a good way on this issue, and in many places the politicians are lagging behind the people when it comes to progress. In 20 years people will think it preposterous that anyone ever thought of amending the Constitution to deal with this issue of equal rights.

That said, I also think that eventually courts are going to have to examine the very nature of ballot initiatives, referenda, and propositions to amend state constitutions. This country is a representative democracy, and our government was founded on the importance of protecting the minority from the majority. I believe that the existence of any proposition to amend the constitution of a state goes against our federal Constitution and the make-up of our government. Proposition 8 should be overturned for many reasons, but one is that it should never have been allowed in the first place. Amending a constitution is supposed to be hard work. Our founding fathers built the system that way.


At 9:35 PM, Blogger P "N" K posited...

More like the Supreme Court refusing to let Algore have unlimited recounts until he cheated enough to win.

Of's a matter of perspective.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Alan posited...

Norm Coleman.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Kath posited...

The whole deal with ballot propositions in CA are ridiculous...not just the ones that can change the constitution. We are asked to vote on the budget, taxes, and other things that most people can expect their elected officials to deal with.

Prop 13, which was passed when Reagan was governor, is one of the primary reasons our schools are worse than Mississippi' kept property taxes level to a home's purchase price and therefore reduced the tax base for our public schools.

Bill Maher's closing monologue last week hit the nail on the head...check it out if you get a chance.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger PBear posited...

I don't understand where you're coming from in not wanting direct democracy used in issues where it is very appropriate. A society's stance on a social issue evolves over time and direct democracy can more quickly adapt policy to this change. I'd rather have direct democracy deciding social issues than representative democracy in which people are forced to decide between two horrible candidates to represent all of their views. There is no reason why amendments should be "hard work." If a particular amendment seems brash a year or two after being passed, then it can be undone just as easily. Having the process be slow only causes policy to be less representative of the majority - not very democratic.

Just as Republicans may be falsely criticizing a system because they are unhappy with the resulting policy, I think you might be doing the same with propositions and referenda.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Kath posited...

Full disclosure, I am disappointed about the Prop 8 outcome for many reasons--not the least of which is the fact that I have one of the 18,000 "limited edition" gay marriages in California. That aside, I've long held that the proposition structure in CA does not serve the state's interests.

**and sorry for this long reply, I'm trying to capture my point in an efficient manner, but it's just not working right now**

Propositions aren't just about social issues. We vote on how much of the budget should be allocated to education, how property taxes can be assessed, and so on. My experience of living and voting in CA is that it's extremely difficult to get real information about the foundation and implications of the propositions (trust me, I try...the voter's guide is useless, and there are very few non-partisan groups who take the time to dig into the details...and I honestly don't have the expertise to parse and analyze all of what is included--I tend to vote based on where the prop was initiated and funded and try to determine from that whether or not the intent of the prop is aligned with my values), and I typically don't give a flying hootenanny one way or the other what the result is (my wife and I keep notes on how we voted to see if "our side" won or not because we're just not that invested).

I personally believe the reason we have a representational government is because some issues and choices are really too important or complex to be done by a simple majority of the popular vote. I want the Governor and state legislature to actually be able to look at our f***ed up budget and make real decisions and tradeoffs for the state (otherwise, really, what do they do???). But because of the legacy outcomes from different propositions, there are severe restrictions on their ability to increase state revenue or reallocate state resources.

I don't think most people (and I put myself in that category, despite my education and work experience) have enough information to make budget decisions in a popular vote. The vote ends up measuring the effectiveness of the marketing campaigns, not the real substance of the issues or solutions being proposed.

ok, that's the end of my manifesto on the subject...I hope it makes original comment wasn't about whether or not I agreed with the outcome, rather that I disagree with the structure and think that it doesn't serve our state in the long run.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Kath posited...

wow. that was really long. Sorry John...

At 12:55 PM, Blogger PBear posited...

Kath, that makes a lot of sense, which is why I believe they should just be left to social issues. The difference between how informed a politician is about an issue like gay marriage is insignificant compared to that of a common person. Don't get me wrong, social issues can be incredibly complex, but I've found that politicians are really no better than common people at understanding that complexity. Additionally, people who are completely clueless on the issues are not very likely to vote.

Even with budgetary matters, in a two party system both candidates might advocate bigger government in a certain area when the voter base wants smaller government. Propositions would solve this problem. Of course, I agree completely that budgetary issues are generally best left to the policymakers.

In regards to marketing deciding the outcome, it goes both ways. I'd rather have marketing campaigns forcing the common voter to think about these issues than lobbyists convincing politicians to vote a certain way with fancy meals and campaign donations.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Jason posited...

"The vote ends up measuring the effectiveness of the marketing campaigns, not the real substance of the issues or solutions being proposed."

Five stars.

However, CoachDub, I must disagree with
"I believe that the existence of any proposition to amend the constitution of a state goes against our federal Constitution and the make-up of our government."
on the basis of the 10th amendment. If California wants to be messed up, they have every right to be so.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Thanks for your input, Kath. You said it better than I could have!


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