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Democracy Works - But Do the Electorate?
Commentary by: Tom Schlafly
Aired May 11, 2009


The Missouri General Assembly is now in the final week of its regular session. This has traditionally been its busiest week of the year, but most Missourians have no idea what their legislators are doing. Many do not even know who their state senator or representative is.

The fact that people don't know who represents them in the General Assembly does not prevent them complaining about their legislators. This displeasure often manifests itself through calls for referendums and direct democracy.

Are popular referendums a good way for societies to govern themselves? There doesn't seem to be a consensus on this point. Whether people think direct democracy is a good idea usually depends on whether they agree with the outcome of the last election.

For example, many of those who praise the wisdom of the electorate for the way it voted on banning concealed weapons and establishing a state minimum wage are the same people who said the same electorate was ignorant and misguided when it voted to ban gay marriage. Some of these same people fought to keep a proposition limiting affirmative action off the ballot saying the electorate couldn't be trusted to understand the issue and vote the right way.

Despite the fact that lots of voters have no idea who represents them in the General Assembly and don't understand the ballot propositions put before them, our democratic system seems to work fairly well. One can only imagine how much better it would work if voters actually took the time to become well informed and voted responsibly.


(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Tom Schlafly

Tom Schlafly

Commentator

Tom Schlafly is an attorney in St. Louis.

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