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The Will of the People

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

We often hear politicians talk about “the will of the people”.  It’s usually after they just won an election.  The people sent this message, the people sent that message.  Pass this, repeal that.  It doesn’t matter if the winners won by twenty percent or by twenty votes, when a politician or a lobby is on the winning side of an issue, the “will of the people” suddenly becomes paramount, and they lay claim to being its voice.

How quickly these advocates of populism abandon their principles when the will of the people goes against the will of the interests the politicians actually represent.  We’ve seen few better examples of that than what is happening in Missouri right now.  After last November’s victory of Proposition B, a ballot measure which puts strict controls on Missouri’s worst in the Nation puppy mill industry, the Missouri Legislature is lining up bills to overturn the outcome of the election.  They will nullify the will of the people.

Prop B was not a blowout victory by any measure.  But it was a victory.  The rules are the rules and the puppy millers lost.  In fact, the rules aren’t just the rules.  They are the rules crafted by the Missouri legislature.  If some elected representatives don’t like that the margin of victory wasn’t big enough, why didn’t they make different rules?  They could have required a supermajority for passing ballot measures.  But they didn’t.  They don’t get to call foul just because they lost a game played by their own rules and now they should accept the will of the people.

Personally, I am of mixed feeling about direct ballot measures.  Our world is rich with examples of the will of the people leading us down bad, if not evil, roads.  The will of the people has authorized slavery, genocide, holocaust, and the subjugation of women and children and the poor.  Our founding fathers protected our Constitution from the changing winds of public opinion by requiring an extremely high hurdle for amending it.  And even there we saw wildly popular- at the time- back to back amendments first outlawing alcohol; then legalizing it.  The will of the people is sometimes fickle.

However, Prop B was not an assault on our democracy or freedoms.  It was very limited decision by a majority of Missouri voters to put reasonable restrictions on the conduct of dog breeders in their state.  The same way local communities decide where to put strip clubs or what kind of building safety codes to enforce or where dangerous industry may be located and how it should function.  They didn’t ban it, they put limits on it.  They spoke, they voted, they won.  And now their legislators want to change the rules.

One would think they would be cleverer in circumventing the will of people and take a play from Pennsylvania’s book.  Pass puppy mill legislation and then render parts of it a farce by “interpreting” it in ways that still allow for dogs to spend their lives on wire floors with no access to exercise.  Or keep bottling up bills in committee which have overwhelming public support, like the tethered/pigeon shoot ban bills.  In Pennsylvania we circumvent the will of the people deftly and with subtlety.

Apparently in Missouri they prefer Mubarak’s approach: “I hear your concerns, I understand, now go home because I have absolutely no intention of obeying the clear will of the people.”  We can only hope that the politicians who vote to overule the will of the Missouri electorate reap Hosni’s harvest.

Pennsylvania has its failings, but at least we aren’t Missouri- the Egypt of the Mid-West.  Power to the people.


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One Response

  • Patricia McEachern, Ph.D. says:

    Well said! Thank you for spreading the word about the Missouri legislature’s attempts to repeal the will of the voters and keep dogs crammed in inhumane MO puppy mills!

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