California referendum on gay marriage: Lots of cryin’ goin’ on

There is major upset in California over the passing of the referendum banning same-sex marriages in the State. A lot of ugliness as well, with gay activists attacking the Mormon church because of their support and aggressive funding of the referendum and black voters because a majority of them, according to exit polls, apparently voted ‘yes’ on the referendum.

Tough shit people. That’s what happens when you try to run the system through referendums.

In case you haven’t noticed, this has been going on for years. Some group with an agenda puts an anti-something or pro-something referendum into the works and organizations with deep pockets move in to spend whatever amount of money is needed to get the referendum passed. The public doesn’t really know the facts surrounding issue, but when it comes time to vote they do remember all of the flash and dash they have seen in the newspapers and on TV and so they give it the nod.

Hunters have seen it where they have completely closed down cougar hunting in California and hunting with dogs in Washington, while in other States the attack has been against trapping. On these type of issues the animal rights crowd takes to the stage and ultra-rich organizations such as the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) sink whatever amount of money is needed in order to pass the referendum and further their agenda. And the odds are that the big money wins.

In these particular cases involving wildlife management issues, scientific wildlife management was thrown out of the window and replaced with management by emotion, much to the frustration of Fish & Wildlife Managers and conservationists.

So excuse me if I find it difficult to muster up a great deal of sympathy for the California gay community because they just got run over by the referendum train.

In the U.S., initiative and referendum processes were considered by the Founding Fathers to be a necessary check and balance against government abuse and have been part of many State constitutions beginning as far back as 1600.

That may have worked back in the distant past, but more recently, critics of referendums and initiatives have complained that the process has been taken over by wealthy individuals and organizations that have the power to drive the process for their own agendas. And that instead of being a public forum to discuss issues of common concern, the referendum process is driven by groups and individuals with narrow agendas with lots of disposable cash. In the end, the outcome is decided by a public, influenced by clever and expensive advertising campaigns, but generally unfamiliar with the facts and the history of the issue.

Although the idea of initiatives and referendums has been a popular one with the public, I think that its merits as a legislative tool have become questionable. In the end it has a tendency to become the tool of special interest groups, unable to convince elected representatives on their particular point of view, who use it to bypass the normal legislative process.

As the California situation has clearly demonstrated, it can be fairly argued that referendums and initiatives pose more risk by being a vehicle to attack minority rights than an enhancement of the democratic process.

California’s gay community needs to quit whining over the fact that they got sandbagged on the same-sex marriage issue and take a serious look at why they took the hit. Don’t blame the Mormon church. They were just using the system that they were given – just as any other group would do, given the issue, the opportunity and the money to pull it off. And to attack the black community is even more stupid. They and the others who supported the referendum were simply voting their beliefs or possibly what they were told their beliefs should be. That’s how the process works.

What needs to be discussed is whether the initiative and referendum process is relevant to the political process at this particular time in history. With what I have seen over the past decade or two, I would suggest that it exhibits more problems than benefits.


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One Response to “California referendum on gay marriage: Lots of cryin’ goin’ on”

  1. commonsense Says:

    Everything you say about referenda is doubly true of elections.

    So, by your logic, we should just do away with democracy because people are too easily swayed by advertising and too dumb to vote in any case. Wrong. The people are not at fault.

    The culprit is advertising — a big enough advertising budget can make a bad idea look good and vice versa.

    So the solution is to outlaw advertising. Each side gets to make its case. Once. After that, every time one side’s view is made public, the other side’s view must also be made public right along side it. Then people vote.

    This would minimize the impact of advertising budgets and salesmanship and maximize the public’s focus on the content of the matter. It would replace the sham democracy we have now with something resembling real democracy.

    And that is why it will never happen.

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