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Yes to Direct Democracy Austin Here at the Texas Observer we still believe in democracy. Wow, isn’t that radical? Yes, in fact, it is. Not in the way that belief used to be radical: subversive of the absentee British aristocracy. In the new way: still having hope that the American democracy has not been Jerminally polluted by corporate political money. Once again, in the current era, we are forced one by one to choose: Either we still believe in democracy, or we abandon it. We have, these days, too, our Tories as well as our Reformers, our Federalists as well as our Jeffersonians, our Bolsheviks as well as our Kerenskys. We have the civil liberties elitists who oppose a new constitutional convention for fear the delegates would abolish the First Amendment. We have the William Buckley autocrats who have about as much use for democracy as they do for public control of the oil companies. We have the self-designated chairpersons of revolutionary committees who define democracy as the will of those who agree with them. And we have many people less colorful in their politics, but just as set against democracy liberals afraid of the bluenoses, labor afraid of business power in the media, beneficiaries of government afraid of the tax revolt. But there is no ducking, there is no denying, there is no qualifying the principle expressed in the First Constitution of Texas in 1845 and now carved on the De Zavala State Archives and Library Building facing the State Capitol in Austin: “All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit.” This is why the Observer endorses direct initiative and referendum for Texas. We join those opposed to Governor Bill Clements’ nowyousee-itnow -you don’t plan for indirect and checkmated I&R. We urge legislators to vote against any plan that contains either “Catch 181” or “Catch 190.” But if Seven Million Bills really get serious about democracy, he doesn’t scare us. We all go back, after all, to Jefferson. Clements is blathering buncombe when he says his plan gives the people a way to rule “where the legislative process refuses to respond to the clear will of the majority.” He’s for the clear will when he gets to say what it wills, but not when he doesn’t. Under his “Catch 181,” \(as we choose presented an initiative from the people that displeases or frightens them and the corporate operatives who run the legislature, can primp up a demagogic, cosmet ic alternative to the proposal to put on the ballot beside the people’s initiative. Then, as anyone who understands the power of corporate money knows, the big boys will pour it on through the media and thwart the expression of “the clear will of the people.” If the I&R system must be indirect, it would be better to just let the legislature say yes or no to the initiative, and if it’s no, then send the proposition straight to the people for a vote. Why not? Because that’s too much democracy for Seven Million Bills, that’s why not. Furthermore, under Clements’ “Catch 190,” the voters in the smaller rural counties are given, in effect, a veto over initiatives emanating from the cities. Posturing as a Jeffersonian friend of the people’s will, the Governor says, “Let’s let the people decide directly let’s have direct democracy! Oopg! unless they live in the cities, that is.” We would not deny the rationality of fears that corporate money will pollute both the initiative and the referendum in an I&R system, just as this money has polluted national, state, and local elections to a now terrifying extent. But what’s this? “We” don’t trust the people? Then either the democracy has become invalid, or we’re betraying it. “We” had better find out which pretty quick. Who, after all, are “we”? What gives here? If you legislators over there across town from us in Austin mean business about democracy, you’ve got an ally here. Don’t play games about it. Who has time for games? Mean it or forget it. If you mean it, we’re with you. R. D. Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in tarn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate Editor and Publis Ronald Dugger Staff Reporter Mary Lenz LAYOUT; Beth Epstein, Kat Duff ‘CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Warren Burnett Jo Clifton, Chandler Davidson, John Henry Faulk, Bill Helmer,Jack Hopper, Molly lvins, Laur iiii’Iolidon, Matt Lyon, Maury Maverick Jr., Paula Manley, Greg Moses, aye Northcott, Janie Paleschic, Laura Richardson, Lawrence Walsh, Alfred J. Watkins CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Alan Pogue, Grant Fehr, Bob Clare, Russell Lee, Scott Van Osdol CONTRIBUTING ARTIS’T’S: Berke Breathed, Jeff Danziger, Ben Sargent, Mary Margaret Wade, Gail Woods Editorial and Business Office’ 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 7870 Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July; 23 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin. Texas. Single copy \(current or back prepaid. One year, $18; two years, $34; three years, $49. One year rate for full-time students. $12, Airmail, foreign; group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilmed by MCA, 1620 Hawkins Avenue, 13ax 10, Sanford. N.C. 27310. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to: 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. 2 MARCH 13, 1981