Monday, December 26, 2011

What 'government-by-recall' begets

By Bill Kraus

The recall frenzy is either a grassroots reaction to an abuse of power by a radical group or it is an unjustified expansion of what the recall provision of the Constitution intended to be a response to personal perfidy into policy disagreement.

If the latter, it is a dangerous departure from the design of our system into something approaching those parliamentary democracies where governments are overturned on bad or unpopular decisions not bad behavior.

Our response to bad decisions has been to throw the rascals out at the next election. The expanded recall definition/option throws them out immediately.

Justified or not, this clearly changes the way we do business in this country. Elections here are for stated terms. In the parliamentary system, elections are mostly indeterminate in length. Usually, new elections are called when those in power wear out their welcome or don’t produce the expected results. They could also be a response to abuses of power or other mis- or malfeasance.

So the decision to recall has much less to do with Governor Walker and the lemmings who came to office on the tsunami of 2010 than with whether we want our elected representatives to be more immediately responsive to a kind of non-stop popularity rating and reacting.

We are getting lots of indications from the tea partiers and the occupiers that there is something amiss in the current system. Even the less noisy among us must wonder from time to time just who our representatives are representing since they surely do not seem to be representing us.

Do we want them on a shorter leash?

Are we sure who will be on the other end of that leash?

The way elections are decided these days it is a pretty sure thing that interest groups with causes and lots of money are not going to be disenfranchised in a recall world.

Other moves in other places to make politics more populous-driven where initiative and referendum laws permit direct intervention in the legislative process do not seem to have been as people-centered as predicted. As a former governor of Wisconsin once said, “The golden rule of politics is that them with the gold make the rules.”

I am less convinced than others that money is the whole thing, but it is certainly a very big part of what our politics has become.

Putting that aside for the nonce, an even stronger argument against government-by-recall is that it will surely dull daring and creativity which are always in short supply.

We have learned that elections have consequences. Recall elections do too. Including having long tails. Do we really want them as a routine part of the governing system?

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Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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