17 May 2013
The Colorado recall campaign: abuse of people power?
Gun-rights groups in Colorado are collecting signatures in hopes of forcing a recall vote on the president of that state's senate. The senator, John Morse, is gathering funds to fight the recall, should it come. Public opinion in his district seems to be against him. A recent poll indicates that once respondents are reminded that Morse supports gun control, a majority of them support his recall. However, only a small number of potential voters were surveyed. Should the opposition collect sufficient signatures, we'll see the ideological flipside of the recall campaign in Wisconsin, where labor unions targeted the governor for signing anti-union legislation. In neither case is there a claim of statutory wrongdoing, though we may assume that the Colorado activists believe their new laws to be unconstitutional. To my knowledge, however, laws allowing recall don't require advocates for recall to "show cause." They don't have to prove or even assert that an elected official has violated the laws, statutory or constitutional, or that the official is incompetent to serve out his or her term. Recall only means that elected officials may be denied their full terms because they've done something unpopular, whether they offend large numbers of liberals, as in Wisconsin, or large numbers of conservatives, as in Colorado. That seems to defeat the idea of representative government as it has evolved in this country ever since our first congressmen rejected the notion that their constituents could tell them how to vote. Since then, the assumption has been that we elect people to legislate as they see fit, so long as they or their party are accountable to us at the next election. Recall might still be preferable to those who believe that the more direct democracy is, the better. But the episodes in Wisconsin and Colorado should give pause to the people urging New York to adopt recall as a remedy for corruption. They'll learn that recall will be used to punish "corrupt" thought rather than corrupt action. If Americans can't stand being governed by ideological opposites for even a single term of office, either our entire system of representative government should be rethought, our our ideologies should be.