August 4, 2012
Douglas Bruce’s anti-government efforts have hogtied the legislature, embarrassed the Republican Party and landed him in jail. He may be the first “Tea Party” philosopher, long before that group even settled on its name. The harm he has caused to our republican form of government has slowly been reversed by communities in Colorado, both counties and cities, that have opted out of – de-Bruced –some of TABOR’s more insidious provisions. The most devastating of them relate not to the “ceiling” (spending caps), but to the “floor” (revenue caps lowered by down economic years),– a poorly-timed automatic austerity plan only a public vote can reverse.
The influence of money (campaigns, lobbyists, Super-PACs), the 24/7/365 news cycle, daily polling, and our cluttered lives, combine to dazzle, frighten and inflame, not inform voters. In a world with ubiquitous sources of information, the allure of opinion echo-chambers sadly tends to sharpen differences and thwart effective consensus.
Direct democracy is a seductive illusion. It assumes public education, interest, engagement, understanding and participation. Our founding fathers weren’t confident this was achievable at a time when only male land owners were permitted to vote. They fashioned a republic in the belief that these more privileged citizens could be trusted to elect responsible representatives, but had neither the time nor inclination to do much more. Representatives who did a good job would be re-elected. The bums would be tossed. Setting budget priorities was out of the question. TABOR is unconstitutional.