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Round on the ends and Hi in the middle

Your Humble Blogger wanted to note something about the Ohio results. Y’all probably know that the Ohio voters overturned an appallingly awful anti-union measure passed by the legislature, and also passed a goofy state constitutional amendment outlawing mandated participation in a healthcare system, essentially presented as seceding from Obamacare. This has led people to notes like Not so Rosy in Ohio? over at TPM and You’re Not the Boss of Ohio, Man over at John Scalzi’s Whatever. Neither of which are bad posts, I should point out.

Gentle Readers know by now that I stubbornly dislike (and fear) legislation by election; I want elected legislators doing the legislating, and citizens booting out the bad ones at their displeasure. Yesterday’s election (and particularly the election news) was a good example of what I dislike: all the fuss was about these ballot questions, amendments and referendum lines, most of which were poorly written chunks of shit even when they are intended to promote policies I disagree with. The citizens of Ohio want to protect the rights of their public employees to bargain as collectives? Why the hell did they vote for Republicans, then? Are all those Republican legislators whose bill was overturned going to resign, or are they going to be booted out at the next election… or more likely are they going to continue in the confidence of their constituents, that is, the confidence to do anything except legislate. It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad, and a terrible way to make a democratic society to be free and self-governing. On the other hand, at least the unions won. This time.

As for the notes above and the others like them I saw, I’m not convinced that Ohio supports unions and hates the Affordable Care Act. I suspect that the difference between Issue 2 and Issue 3 is that there was a nationally organized effort to support Issue 2, and that wasn’t one to oppose Issue 3. Lots of money and lots of GOTV and lots of individual persuasion happened there, and then there was that whole Wisconsin thing that nobody really wanted to have happen all over again, and on the whole Issue 2 was on everybody’s mind, as far as I can tell. Issue 3, not so much.

Would it have been a better night for our society, or for progressive ideals, if the insurance companies (who stand to benefit greatly from the individual mandate, of course) had spent a bazillion dollars getting everybody worked up about Issue 3? I’m not saying it would have failed—at the end of the day, they count the ballots, not the dollars, or Issue 2 would have had a different ending. But a lot of money can get people worked up, for sure.

Well, well. I don’t know. I am relieved that the state won’t be able to completely screw over its employees, I know that. I would have been dreadfully disappointed had the law not been overturned. I’m just… it’s a terrible analogy, but do you remember when Woody Allen was accused of abusing Mia Farrow’s children, and he was not convicted (I don’t remember the details, whether there were charges that were dismissed, or if it never got to the charges part, or what) and he was asked how he felt about winning, he said something like what winning? I didn’t win anything, they tried to kill me and I escaped. I don’t remember the exact quote, but his point was that he was still worse off than he was before the whole thing started. Which, if he hadn’t done anything wrong (and remember that my point isn’t about Woody Allen) was powerfully true; he was dragged through the mud, spent a zillion dollars that could have been spent somewhere else, had this awfulness the focus of his life for months, and all he got at the end of it was that it was almost much, much worse.

And that’s how I feel about the good news.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


In the simplest abstract case, take two policies and two parties in diametric opposition. Party A supports Policy 1 and Policy 2, while Party B opposes Policy 1 and Policy 2. Within a party system, how is a public that supports Policy 1 and opposes Policy 2 supposed to achieve that split absent specific referenda?

I understand why referenda are not ideal, but eliminating them before reforming the party system, corporatism, and political corruption feels like it just turns over that much more of our policy decisions to the wrong people. And without referenda, it becomes that much harder to reform the existing problems because you've eliminated a possible path toward reform.

Why on earth would there be a situation where the two parties split in that way and the public sincerely, seriously and with full information splits the other way, and then that the parties (also with full information and sincerity and so on) cannot manage a horse-trade to pander to their constituents?

…and if all that happens, why on earth would implementing such a split of policies through ballot questions without either Party responding to its constituents' policy preferences be a good thing?

This will sound defensive, but I deny wanting to eliminate ballot questions entirely. I dislike ballot questions (and recall and so on) and feel that they come at such a high cost that they should be resorted to only rarely, but I wouldn't get rid of them entirely. But where you claim that reform is harder without ballot questions, it seems obvious to me that reform is harder with ballot questions. It seems to me that frequent resort to legislating by referendum or initiative, frequent constitutional amendment votes, or frequent recalls of elected officials untethers Parties from policy platforms and untethers voters from Parties, making the whole structure much less responsive, much less permeable and much less democratic.


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