Sometimes, the loss of logic to partisanship is embarrassing, as evidenced by this editorial attempt to justify Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney’s recent lawsuit to force the Massachusetts legislature to vote on a petition:
Mr. Romney’s case isn’t expected go very far. Aside from the obvious separation-of-powers problem, Mr. Romney is asking the same court that imposed same-sex marriage three years ago to parse his constitutional logic. Like a second marriage, expecting the court to allow a rebuke of its earlier decision is a triumph of hope over experience.
But Mr. Romney’s case does have one salutary effect. He filed suit against the Legislature not for failing to endorse a ban on same-sex marriage, but for using a series of procedural moves to avoid voting on the issue and thereby keeping it off the ballot. Mr. Romney’s lawsuit is, therefore, an attempt to use the state’s high court for what it has heretofore resisted being: A bulwark for democracy.
Because Massachusetts’ Constitution requires votes in favor of an amendment from only one-fourth of the Legislature in two successive terms to get it on the ballot, the governor would likely win the fight if only the Democratic leaders of the Legislature would allow a vote. But the real target here isn’t the judiciary or even the Legislature. Mr. Romney filed his case in an attempted to push the debate over marriage back into the court of public opinion. And he’s thinking well beyond the confines of Massachusetts–where voters are eager for an opportunity to weigh in on the issue–and into Republican presidential primaries, where he aspires to be the candidate with the strongest social conservative credentials.
So many problems, in too few words. Primarily, it’s fascinating that the writer somehow believes Mr. Romney is promoting democracy by being an activist executive. Clearly the so-called activist part of recent judicial decisions isn’t the issue, as much as it’s the outcome. Activist is as activist does. And voters are eager to vote on this. Populism at its best. Very presidential, indeed.
But, just for a moment, let’s consider how democratic it is to require one-fourth of the legislature to vote for an amendment to put it on the ballot. In no political philosophy have I ever seen 25% equated with democracy. Rights should never be up for a popular vote, but if you shoot for it, at least have the decency to pretend like you care about a majority rather than some divinely-inspired “truth”.