Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm a republican.....

Yep. I am.

A small "r" republican, of course, as in republican form of government. I've ranted here and elsewhere before about why democracy sucks and how, in their wisdom, the Founders created a complex system of constitutional checks and balances designed to save us from our worst instincts.

Republican government gives us the rule of law, majority rule, and the protection of minority rights.  Pure democracy (e.g. voter referenda) gives us the rule of the mob.

In Maine, we in the LGBT community have an opportunity to reassert republican values and avoid the costly mistake we made in California with Prop 8. 

First, the good news.  The Maine legislature passed a gay marriage law and the governor signed it yesterday. Fabu!  Once upon a time, we used to say in US politics "as Maine goes, so goes the the nation" and let's hope that old principle still holds.  Hopefully, we are on the verge of a tidal wave of legislative action in favor of this long overdue social change.  Plus, three cheers to the Maine legislators for not copping out of their responsibility and turning it over to the voters to decide.

The bad news is that, in his speech at the signing ceremony, the governor, with a wink and a nod to popular will, encouraged the referenda folks to try to get this new legislation reversed at election time.  

Several thoughts:

1. A different scenario unfolds in Maine, with a potential referendum to reverse legislative action, not supplant it.  But the principle is the same, namely that popular votes on issues that affect minority rights and responsibilities are rarely a good idea.  They're anti-republican and run contrary to a system that has served us well for 2+ centuries.  We should do all we can through the courts and public opinion to prevent this referendum. 

2. Yes, We the People have ultimate power, and government rules by the consent of the governed.  Fine.  Yet, power exercised to oppress classes of citizens--on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, religious belief, political views, or sexual practices--is bullying and denies some of us the same right to pursue happiness that is guaranteed to all of us, collectively.

3. One of my take-aways from the Maine experience is that term limits really are a good idea.  Some anti-limits folk argue that elected officials, unfettered by the need to stand before the elecorate again, will make bad decisions.  But, in Maine, the second term governor found his political courage in part because he knew that he would not have to run again, where this single issue might embroil and imperil his candidacy.  A good outcome, I say, of the term limits law.  We need this on the federal level, as well.

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