The old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows came to mind after reading Vincent Carroll’s op-ed this morning in the Denver Post. In the column, Vincent points out that anti-TABOR forces are drawing heavily from the Founders in their lawsuit that alleges TABOR is unconstitutional. In particular they quote James Madison from his Federalist No. 10. The argument is that Madison, along with the other Founders, rejected “direct democracy” in favor of representative democracy. And look, it’s even in the Constitution itself – “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” The lawsuit argues that our Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a form of direct democracy as it requires a vote of the people to raise taxes and debt.
Leaving aside my argument that this lawsuit is not really about TABOR but more about our petition process, it’s a bit ironic that big government elites all of the sudden fancy themselves constitutional scholars taking on the important fight to secure our founding documents from perversion and ignorance. So I’m supposed to believe that tax and spend, no limits on government, elitist, living constitutionalists are now walking hand in hand with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson? Strange bedfellows doesn’t even begin to describe that phony alliance.
Our Constitutional scholar Rob Natelson doesn’t buy it either. As is always the case with Rob’s research, he visits the 18th century writings to discover the truth. What Rob finds is that the Founders used the word “republic” in a different way than the lawsuit’s proponents lead us to believe. “They all define ‘republic’ as merely ‘commonwealth’ or ‘a government controlled by more than one person,” says Rob. Not only that, the governments the Founders looked to for inspiration and guidance employed elements of direct citizen action. For example, the early Roman state had a republican form of government and yet legislation came out of popular assemblies where citizens voted in person. In his op-ed, Vincent quotes heavily from Senior Fellow Rob Natelson as he makes the case that the Founders would have had no beef with our citizen initiative process in general and our Taxpayer Bill of Rights in particular.
The evidence is convincing: this lawsuit will go nowhere. It’s unfortunate that in the next policy fight our big government opponents will have all but forgotten their affection for the Founders and our founding era documents. I predict this love affair is a one time occurrence. Mere puppy love – fickle and fleeting.