Picking a Level of Democracy

My Patch column this week laments the trick of picking a particular aspect of “the democratic process” as dominant for the sake of a particular issue:

… too often disputes about public policy hinge more on which side can use prettier words than which side better captures the will of the public, let alone adhering more closely to the truth. And in our political discourse, among the most beautiful and powerful words is “democracy.”
So we read retired Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato proclaiming that a direct vote of the people on the issue of same-sex marriage “is a ploy to subvert the orderly workings of our democratic processes,” which he describes as legislators’ sitting as moral and intellectual judges, only subsequently held to account by voters. On a completely separate issue, we read the contrasting view of former Tiverton Town Councilor Brian Medeiros that an ordinance capping the town’s budget increase at 2.5% would represent a usurpation by the Town Council of “rights reserved solely for the people of Tiverton.”

The first example is merely an example, and I go on to focus on the latter. And, of course, I don’t exempt myself from slipping into convenient definitions.

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