Chief Justice Roberts and the ‘Politicians’ Veto’

by Michael Potemra

I recommend to readers’ attention the fascinating — and sobering — piece by John Fund over on the homepage. John writes that by denying the Prop 8 plaintiffs standing to defend the law, Chief Justice Roberts is striking a very serious blow against the ballot-initiative process nationwide. Referendums are a recourse for democratic change when elected officials are unresponsive to public demands; if those same elected officials can refuse to defend the referendum results in court, and citizens then are denied the right to defend the referendum themselves, the politicians have essentially been given a veto over the public will. I respect the argument that the United States was not intended to be a pure democracy, and that the main check on the actions of elected officials was to be the opportunity to defeat those officials at the ballot box, not to overrule their judgments piecemeal at that same ballot box. But the ballot initiative has been a part of the life of many states, for long enough, that we should not rush to scrap it without more deliberation.

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