Sunday, November 7, 2021

Bill Crawford: No new referendum process without citizen fervor

 In the late 80s and early 90s I made the civic club rounds delivering a dramatic speech designed to activate citizen involvement in government affairs. With my math background, I couched the speech as a proposition with 10 corollaries. 

The proposition was “don’t trust government.” The 10 corollaries were: 1) Don’t count on government to look after your best interests. 2) Government seldom matches its words with its deeds. 3) Campaigns are designed to and government is prone to mislead you. 4) Government is prone to corruption. 5) Corrupt people tend to succeed in government. 6) Government grows readily, but prunes poorly. 7) Government responds to pressure, not to facts or needs. 8) The principal motivation in government is self-preservation. 9) People in government generally are more interested in power and prestige than good government. 10) Government doesn’t create wealth, it redistributes it inefficiently.

The speech drew upon examples from my life experiences – congressional legislative assistant, political reporter covering the Mississippi Senate, reporter and/or editor covering local government in 11 counties all over Mississippi, senior staff member in two U.S. Senate and two Governor campaigns, political party chairman in two different counties, elected official as a state representative, and senior officer in a highly regulated industry, banking.

I would conclude the speech with this line, “You shouldn't trust government because government sure as h… doesn't trust you.”

After another 30 years in and around government – IHL board, community college and state agency official, two governor task forces, non-profit executive, and federal grant project manager –  I still believe a motivated citizenry is essential. As Corollary 7 indicates, government does not work well unless citizens constantly, almost daily, press on it to do better. 

In the speech I recommended two things to help make government do better: “1) Limit the terms of all government officials. Our democratic republic is based on controlled revolution – the ballot box was supposed to promote turnover of non-representative government (not insurrection). The power of incumbency, the lack of accountability, and the influence of money on our elections have eroded this protection. Let's shore it up by limiting terms.”  This would limit elected officials' opportunities for corruption and make government, once again, more of a place for service rather than ambition. 

“2) Provide a referendum procedure at all levels of government. I never thought I would advocate referendums.  But, it's clear government will not and cannot police itself, rid itself of useless programs, or contain its spending tendencies. I have more faith in the people than I do in government. I would rather trust the people through a practical, conservative referendum process than I would government.”

That final point is the purpose of all this reminiscing. Mississippi needs a practical, conservative referendum process to address issues the Legislature will not. 

We had one but it has been upended by a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on a technicality. 

Golly gee, government leaders have been in no hurry to fix that. Oh, they have made some noise but taken no action. They won’t unless and until they feel a growing fervor of dissatisfaction from citizens across the state.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good” – 2 Thessalonians 3:13.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.


Anonymous said...

So, Bill, you were toting water for the Tax Dodgers, the LiberaLtarians, and the anti-GubMint Bubbas who don't realize Mississippi, and especially our farmers and wealthy, are 100% addicted to GubMint Corporate Welfare. From one of the sponsors here who made his many millions off of subsidized farmers, to the Pumps Swamp Farmers, to the tax and legal minions about Jackson, and now our Rich Restaurant Welfare crew, they all LOVE lobbyists and entrenched buddies. Just not fair taxes.

All of those actually controlling GubMint are totally unelected, unaccountable rich guys, of both parties.

Out of one corner of their mouth, they'll spew "GubMint's the problem," while out the other side they beg for more prison contracts, more Ag Welfare, more Timber Welfare, CRP, tax credits, more grants, and PPP and on and on. Both parties, the ends against the middle.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you if what you meant to say instead of " Don't trust government" is " don't trust political parties" or " hold those you elect accountable".

I think you know that there are those in government who actually try to study a problem and come up with the best possible solution for their community, State or country that is a workable solution to an issue.

I think the problem these days is that we've gone from a 30% "yellow dog" base to 45%. These are people who are blindly loyal to a party and who believe only one party can come up with the best solution for every problem faced in a society. They over emphasize and trust broad philosophies that are unspecific in actual problem solving. A hint is that communist countries are all embracing a form of capitalism economically and some democratic nations are embracing some socialistic programs and Russia supposedly elects a President and has a " democracy" of sorts but is an oligarchy and voting is for "show".

But, for our "yellow dog" one party is always right and the other always wrong and self-interest is seen as everyone's interest being the same.Mistakes by both parties are excused and the accomplishments of the other party are non-existent.

What we are seeing is now is so dysfunctional( nice way of saying insanely destructive) " collective narcissism" is replacing our former cooperative form of tribalism . Proximity,inship, and established support systems key to tribalism are no longer as important as party loyalty.
Functional tribalism that we once enjoyed, recognizes the necessity of peaceful co-existence with other tribes based on common interests.

A family member who is fiercely independent and votes based on qualifications, experience and the record of hard work and ethics of a person, as best they can determine was just physically threatened this week by a lifelong friend. The warning was "the line in the sand is drawn". If you aren't completely loyal to his party of choice, you are now" the enemy" and "willingly killing anyone (friend or family or neighbor) who voted for or sympathized with "any Democrat or Democratic position" is "the plan" .
Indeed, this person is trying to recruit others in various States to do just that...kill anyone not loyal to his party.

Yes, he's nuts and probably mentally ill and dangerous but that's what happens when you let " either /or" or "my way or no way" take over our political dialogue.

It's also , in this type of dysfunctional group behavior fed by notions of superiority or extreme fear that has cursed humanity with brutal dictators and tyrants.

It doesn't matter if you call someone a King or Emperor or Dear Leader who only rewards his family and loyal followers or call him President in one party system, the outcome is equally bad.

Too many we elected in both parties long ago chose to think they could use fear and hate and notions of superiority because they could " control" those they inflamed.

History , over and over, proves that wrong!

Every group can be corrupted. Every group can be well led and further the development of civilization. The trick is to know the difference. We don't seem to anymore.

I had hoped not to live to see our little experiment in freedom devolve as it has in past history. But, I suspect the " Rubicon has been crossed". The outcomes are more likely to be civil war ( with allies and enemies taking sides in hopes of controlling us) or a tyrannical government.

I wonder if we will ever " mature" as a species or will always want a " Daddy" or " Momma" to meet our needs perfectly and lovingly and be too often disappointed to learn that not all Daddies and Mommas are good ones even when they are handsome and beautiful and rich.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the main points of this article. The way it is written makes me want to disagree with whatever pompous a$$ wrote it. No one gives a crap about your resume

Anonymous said...

The referendum process is based on creating good outcomes with citizens that are educated and knowledgeable about the subject. Sadly, that is not what our schools have produced for many years.

Anonymous said...

"I made the civic club rounds"

Very impressive Mister Bill !

Anonymous said...

For the sake of accuracy, Mississippi has never had a referendum process. It had until recently an INITIATIVE process, which is different.

Initiative is when the citizens can create/write a law, or in our case a constitutional amendment, and with enough signatures can put it on the ballot for a vote. If it passes, it becomes law. Referendum is when citizens can gather enough signatures to challenge a law passed by the legislature, and that challenge is put on the ballot. If the challenge passes, the law is nullified.

Most states have both, hence the commonly used term "initiative and referendum". However, Mississippi has (had) only initiative.

With Mr. Crawford being so busy over the years with his voluminous roles and duties, he has less time to be concerned about things like the factual accuracy of his column.

Anonymous said...

It's a psychological conundrum to note that Kingfish pays for this column yet he shit cans posts that speak favorably about it. Go figure.

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