[From the Chicago Tribune, Dec. 20, 1977]
LETTING THE VOTERS BECOME LAWGIVERS
(By Patrick J. Buchanan)
Washington—When Benjamin Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention he was confronted by a lady who inquired, “What kind of government shall we have, Dr. Franklin?” To which the wisest of the Founding Fathers responded, “A republic, madam if you can keep it.”
What we inherited, then, is a representative, not a pure, democracy. The men in Philadelphia reasoned that while common folk lacked the Information to make the daily decisions of government, they were qualified to decide who should make them.
Come now Senators James Abourezk and Mark Hatfield to add to the work of the Founding Fathers. They propose a Constitutional amendment whereby voters may participate directly in the making of national law.
Before a proposal could be placed upon the national ballot, however, criteria would have to be met. Three per cent of the voting population from the last presidential election, from 10 separate states, would have to sign validated petitions within an 18-month period. Using 1976 as a base year, this would require the support and signature of 2.45 million voters—no small number.
In the judgment of this conservative, the amendment merits ratification. For there is no real conflict between what the Founding Fathers envisioned and what the senators are proposing.
Unlike 1789, 1977 is a year of mass education and mass communication. While the people are still unequipped to make the day-to-day decisions of government they are as qualified to pass upon individual laws as upon the Individual men who make them.
And what Is there to fear in this amendment?
If the voters go off on a toot and decide to equip everyone with an M-16 rifle against the day the Russians arrive, Congress could repeal the law by a two-thirds vote. As for the power to make war, raise troops, and propose constitutional amendments, that would still reside on Capitol 11111. And since 23 states already have the initiative and referendum this hardly seems a dangerous constitutional leap in the dark.
Consider the possibilities. For certain, the liberals would be on the ballot early with a proposal to confiscate all handguns. But the nation is drifting rightward on this issue, as on others. And consider proposals that might be on the 1978 ballot were the Abourezk amendment already ratified.
Proposition 1: Since the median income of the average United States worker in the last five years—due to taxes and inflation—has fallen 3 per cent, the 30 per cent raise Congress gave itself this year is hereby rescinded.
Proposition 2: Like workers in the private sector all federal employees, including office holders, shall make contributions to the Social Security fund.
Proposition 3: The United States government shall not discriminate in hiring or promotion against, or in favor of, any individual on the basis of sex, race, creed, color, or national origin. [Bye-bye affirmative action and quotas !]
Proposition 4: No federal tax dollars shall be used in any abortion unless a physician asserts in writing that the only alternative is death of the mother.
The list could go on and on.
For years now my right-wing brethren have been talking about a national conservative majority “out there,” whose will is frustrated by an elitist establishment ensconced In the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the Congress, and the media—an establishment with a game plan all its own for America, over which we exercise little control.
Well, the Abourezk amendment offers the people an unimpeded end-run around that liberal establishment. Now is the time for the brothers to put up or shut up.
From Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment
Committee on the Judiciary SJ RES 67