The American Direct Democracy Explosion 2011, Chapter 1 & 2: Mississippi and Ohio

By Ted Becker

Amid all the gloomy news around the world — political, economic, ecological — there is a strong ray of hope. It’s called “democracy,” a natural wonder not often seen to flourish in recent times. There are places, like Switzerland, in which it seems to thrive all the time, but that is in rarified air. Normally, there are patches and bursts of it here and there. But late 2011 saw a quite unexpected explosion of it in one country, with the promise of much more to come in the near future. That country, surprise of surprises, was the Good Old USA…sire and false prophet of “The Elected Oligarchy” as being “democracy.” But that’s at the national level. At the state level, it’s a different story.

So, let me capture this precious moment in the blogosphere, in new series hereinafter dubbed:

Chapter 1:

Citizens Initiative to Amend Constitution (Mississippi)

Does a Single Cell Fertilized Human Egg = A Person ?

As in all of their causes, the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, tends towards excess in its moral views as well as its economic ones. Both are in play somewhere all the time. In the moral sphere, the “Right to Life” faction came up with a ploy to abort abortion once and for all at the earliest possible nanosecond. hey have been preparing to foist this upon America all at once, but decided to test it out first in the single state that they were sure to win: Mississippi.

Here’s the deal:

If only they could define “personhood” way before birth, yes even before the first trimester, they could arrest and punish even more women and doctors for aborting fetuses as “Murder.” So, why not that chemical instant when the sperm enters the egg in the womb and creates, by the Grace of God, a human being? This way, they could even prosecute women who took a “Morning After” pill for “attempt to commit murder.” And, if a woman who was in her second month, got a bit drunk, drove, got into an accident and then miscarried, she could be prosecuted for “negligent homicide.” Perfect.

It’s known that the State of Mississippi has long been ranked #50 among the 50 states in the United States in just about every social, economic and educational indicator, and for some strange reason, that correlates exactly with it being “the most religious state in America” according to a 2009 Gallup Poll

Small wonder, then, that the “Personhood USA” movement chose Mississippi as the ideal Battle Ground to see if they could get the citizens of a state to put such an idea on the ballot and vote it in as an amendment to their state constitution…even though they had already tried it twice in Colorado, another “conservative” state, and lost. Here’s a very good video from Fox News on the issue, the two sides, and the strategy before the election:

Yes, Mississippi allows citizens to get such items on the ballot for other citizens to vote on constitutional amendments. Thus, the time and place were carefully chosen. Mississippi was a sure bet to vote to change their constitution and make a single cell fertilized egg “a person” with full Constitutional Rights. Indeed, a one day old fetus would be guaranteed the Right to Freedom of Speech and once that was a fait accomplis, many more were to follow.

A lively debate occurred in that state, with passion, reasonableness, extremism and intelligence. Below is the way Jonathan Winburn, a political science professor at the University of Mississippi described Proposition 26. He gives both sides of the argument and predicted why it would fail:

He was right. It was soundly and roundly defeated 57%-43%.

Chapter 2:

Citizens Veto of Legislation Passed by Legislature and Governor (Ohio):
Should Government Union Workers Have the Right to Collective Bargaining?

Now we come to the State of Ohio. Apparently, that state’s constitution allows a certain percentage of voters from the last election to file a petition that challenges some law(s) passed by the Governor and State Legislature. This sort of thing is aptly called by some:

The Citizens Veto.

For several months, a grassroots movement of Ohio citizens, aptly called “We Are Ohio” got over 1 million voters to sign a petition to repeal the recently passed law that prohibits “collective bargaining” by public service unions. It has a number of other anti-union provisions. There was a vigorous debate in the state over this Citizens Veto measure. Below is the spokeswoman of the organization shortly before the election.

You’ve just got to watch this video. It’s a classic scene that shows with crystal clarity how modern American TV just cannot understand direct democracy. This spokeswoman brilliantly defends the citizens’ simple demand and direct, legal method how they will get their way despite government’s power.

There are 6 videos on the site linked below. You might want to watch them all but be sure to watch the one embedded below. You’ll be glad you did.

You Say You’ll Change the Constitution, Well, You Know, We All Want to Change Your Head. VIDEO of Ohio Governor Kasich…….. Showing Fear……..Lots of Fear.

Over 60% of the voters said she was right. The law, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, was wiped off the books by the vote of the people.

That is what is meant by the word “democracy.” And that is how direct democracy, within a “representative democracy” gets the government to actually represent the will of the people. Directly. There is no other way.

Our next blog will have chapters 3 and 4 of

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5 Responses to “The American Direct Democracy Explosion 2011, Chapter 1 & 2: Mississippi and Ohio”

  1. Anna Tralongo says:

    As for the first post on personhood at conception, I do not necessarily agree that the egg constitutes a person the second it is fertilized, but I do think people should really think more about abortion and what they are really doing. As for the morning after pill, Plan B will not terminate a pregnancy that is already in progress. Supposedly sperm can live in the woman’s body for up to 72 hours and if the pill is taken before the egg is fertilized then it prevents a pregnancy from happening, but if the egg is already fertilized, it does nothing to terminate it. Therefore no harm is done and a woman could not be convicted of “attempted murder.”

  2. Ted Becker says:

    Hi Sam: This is a very thoughtful post. But I respectfully disagree. This “Citizens Veto” is a negative form of the citizens initiative used in Switzerland, California and 23 other states in the USA. I think it is also used in Italy. You can check that out. So, since citizens, union or not, can petition to put something on the ballot for all citizens to vote on directly, it is direct democracy. That the unions wanted to repeal an anti-union law does not mean it isn’t direct democracy. In all citizens initiatives, there are interest groups who are at the heart of getting other citizens to sign the petition to get their position on the ballot for all to vote on. When I was in Hawaii. I was a petition gatherer for a group that wanted to preserve the surfer’s view of the mountains and not have it blocked by a condo that the developers wanted to build and who convinced the city council of HNL to change the zoning laws. I walked Sandy Beach getting voters to sign up. We were an interest group….and we were outspent by the developers 10-1 in the election. We won 70% of the vote. THAT is democracy. That is direct democracy. And so is what We Are Ohio did. You have a better argument in my next blog…on Recall. But I think I can make an argument that this is direct democracy too, although it is more of a stretch. TB

  3. Sam Sotrop says:

    According to Wikipedia Direct Democracy is “a form of government in which people collectively make decisions for themselves, rather than having their political affairs decided by representatives.”

    This “We Are Ohio” is not a direct democracy.

    A direct democracy implies that everybody gets to vote. This means everyone has equal representation. In the vote Government jobs are as equally represented as small town entrepreneurs. This “We Are Ohio” is a giant Union movement orchestrated by “Ohio Association of Public School Employee” Ohio’s largest union.

    SB5 was a bill that was going to harm the unions of Ohio. The only logical thing for them to do was to encourage their workers to go out and vote against SB5, but they needed a group to collect all the workers and vote against the bill. This is where “We Are Ohio” was born.

    “We are Ohio” was not created by the people, it is not for the people, and it’s goal is not to help anyone outside of the union. Because of this it is not a Direct Democracy.

  4. Ted Becker says:

    Despite the scheming and large expenditures on ads supporthing this extreme view of “personhood”, the people of Mississippi,given direct democracy as a process, decisively rejected it. Chalk up a big win for DD.

  5. Regarding the first issue raised in this blog, I want to point out to those who sopport personhooh at inception:
    1. If you care so much about ‘the sanctity of innocent life’: did you support the wars in Iraq and afghanistan which led to the demise of hundreds of thousands of innocent ‘actual’ men, women and children? If you did, please try, in your oown mind, to explain away the discrepancy betwee your views and action.
    2. The world population has reached 7 billion. It is getting more difficullt to sustain further population growth. The Chinese have opted to limit offspring to one per family. Would you promote your proposition of ‘personhood’ internationally, including adoption in China, India, and Egypt? If you do not, you could be accused of biggotry!