Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Proposing the prevention of propositions

On Fridays on the grounds outside the office there's a farmers market (or at least a bunch of booths set up with vendors selling items, amongst them some selling produce). I don't tend to buy anything there but I do walk past it on my way to lunch, typically at some restaurant across the street.

Last Friday there were a pair of women with clipboards on either side of the crosswalk. It was obvious they sought signatures for some potential ballot initiative.

As I crossed the street I veered off away from the woman on that side but she stepped over to intercept my path.

And as I describe our interaction it will become clear why I more or less tried to avoid her.

Before I even stepped on the curb she asked me to sign her petition and summarized in a pithy sentence their proposal. I responded, "I need to think about how I feel about that"—which was not blowing her off, by the way; that was a sincere response to her plea. However, she urged me to sign anyway, claiming it would only take "two seconds" and it was merely to get it on the ballot. As I continued walking she peeled off to try to capture the John Hancock of another person, but I did blurt out "We don't want to get into that."

It's not that I am completely opposed to direct democracy (inasmuch as the ballot propositions qualify as that), per se, but having seen how many of those propositions have gone in the past, I find myself (shall we say) disinclined to put some of these weightier decisions in the hands of the masses. It's not that everyone is an idiot, but the evidence suggests there's more than a few of them out there. It's not that I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our elected officials (as they themselves were elected by those same idiots) but there's at least the ostensible suggestion those officials are paying a tiny bit more attention to the issues than I get the impression the general public does.

And if I sign a petition, that's tacitly indicating I believe the public is in a good position to be the one to make such a decision, and that, I have well learned by this age, is not something to go along with capriciously. Before I do that I need to consider whether I think the issue is one where if it got on the ballot the voting public would regard it any less capriciously when they were in the booth.

But obviously that's not what the folks with the clipboards want, and I suspect it's not what the people behind the people with the clipboards want: voters (or even potential voters) actually thinking.


Insert everyone's favorite Kent Brockman quote here.


  1. You forgot the cardinal rule of walking in public: do not make eye contact with the crazy people. ;-)

    Those who collect signatures for ballot initiatives will just make up signatures, so you don't have to expend the effort. They did it in Indiana in 2008, they're doing it in Wisconsin now. ;-)

  2. My father used to have a great line when a Jehovah Witness or someone of that ilk knocked on his door and tried to convert him. He looked them in the eye and said: "I'm Roman Catholic." That drove them off like a crucifix held up to a vampire.

    So next time you have an encounter with another balloteer, Doug, look them in the eye and repeat my father's words. Then keep walking.


So, what do you think?