Texas abortion law and direct democracy

I just learned that Texan politicians voted 81 against 63 to pass a new law which, according to its critics, will ban most abortions in Texas.

I do not want to discuss if abortion is right, wrong, ethical, unethical, is against the rights of women or against the rights of the unborn.

What I want to discuss is that a decision by 81 politicians is thoroughly undemocratic; they do not have an explicit mandate by the people to do that. Even if they campaigned on that issue, unless they campaigned on that issue alone, they would not have a mandate.

Abortion is a controversial issue in Texas, and in most other places. A controversial issue of that importance should not be decided by 81 politicians, no matter how ethical, principled they believe they are. It is not a democratic decision because it is not an explicit decision by the people.

No matter how many conservatives of liberals try to paint the decisions by elected politicians as democratic, they are not because democracy means government by the people. Only a decision explicitly made by the people in a referendum is a democratic decision.

Naturally, it would not be a democratic decision if the elected politicians decided that abortion is legal. Furthermore, the Texan Supreme Court or the US Supreme Court should have no say on the matter if the decision in Texas was the result of a popular referendum.

A decision by politicians would barely be democratic, even if Texan voters had an easy and simple way to call a referendum on the matter. Such a simple way would be, for example, if any Texan, group of Texans, a Texan political party, a union, a group of pro, or anti abortionists, were able to collect 300 000 signatures in one year.

If with that procedure in place nobody is willing or able to collect the 300 000 signatures to force the Texan government to hold a referendum, then perhaps we could say the decision by Texan politicians on abortion is democratic because the people, decided not use the opportunity they have to challenge and reject the law.

Bu the way they did in Texas on abortion and other issues, and the way they do it in other states, in the whole of the US, in France, and the rest of representative “democracies”, it is not democratic at all because the decisions by their parliaments are not decisions by the people.

To say a country is a democracy because they elect their representatives, and the executive and the legislative check each other’s power, or because the Supreme Court can check the power of both, it is false. For example, the politicians in the executive and the legislative often belong to the same party; where are the checks and balances on that? They want us to believe that because the politicians of rival parties fight each other bitterly to destroy the rival and get more votes, it is a check and a balance, it is not that at all, it is just a bitter fight for power, not a fight to honestly control the power of the other branch.

As for the Supreme Court, what sort of check and balance can it provide when the Judges are appointed by politicians and we see how the Judges fall in the conservative or the progressive camp. The hard truth is that what they want us to believe are checks and balances is just more politics.

Just in case you are thinking. “But in California and in some other 30 US states, they have popular referendums”. Those referendums are not worth much because the judges can declare the results are contrary to the constitution of the State or the US Constitution. Popular referendums, if the country is a real democracy, can not be stopped by anybody; only another popular referendum could do that.

It is time that the people in Texas, in California, in the whole of the US, in Canada, France, the UK, Germany, Japan and other representative democracies, have the right to call for referendums with mandatory outcomes for the politicians.

Just in case you think this is not possible, or that it is “Promised Land” messianic stuff; the Swiss have been doing it for not much less that 200 years.

That is right. For example, the Swiss people legalised abortion in Switzerland by a popular referendum.

Swiss citizens proposed that abortion should be permitted in Switzerland. They collected the required number of signatures and, in June 2002 the voters decided abortions would be legal.

Naturally, if the values of the public change, in a few years’ time another group could collect signatures to hold another referendum that abortion be banned.

That is the way it should be; the people, not the judges, not the politicians, not the Church, not anybody else, only the people, should decide by referendum any issue that enough people consider should be decided by referendum.

When the people decide, nobody can question the democratic credentials of such decision; when the politicians decide we all know the decision is not democratic, that is why the groups that are pro-abortion in Texas will not accept it.

The root problem in the US, and in all representative democracies, is that people are brought up to believe that they need leaders, special people with the wisdom to know better than ordinary people what is right or wrong. Anybody who believes that is as naïve as you can get. Few people believe that, that is why the US Congress gas such poor reputation among Americans.

The reality of Switzerland shows they have been able to get rid of “leaders with vision”. Swiss citizens decide the destiny of the country by themselves, they do not need more or less “illuminated” politicians to lead them. In Switzerland the voters decide and the politicians do what the people want; should it not be like that in all countries who call themselves democracies.

But in 2002, the Swiss decided by binding popular referendums on many other issues. For example, they decided the country should join the UN, that working hours should NOT be reduced, the use of the country’s gold reserves, a law regulating the electricity market, on asylum seeking, on unemployment, etc.

In addition, they held cantonal and municipal referendums on many other issues.

In Switzerland, while they still elect politicians, the enormous direct power to decide that voters have makes Switzerland the only real democracy we have on Earth. While it is not a fully direct democracy, it has the laws and practices that make Switzerland very close to a direct democracy.

You may be surprised to know that Taiwan, inspired by Switzerland, is the only other country where the people have comparable levels of power. If Taiwan, with only a few years of voting and electing politicians (it was a dictatorship before) can introduce direct democracy; what is the matter with the Americans, the Canadians, the British, the French, the Germans and many others, that seem unable to transition to direct democracy?

The Germans in particular should be eager to bring direct democracy to their country because Hitler was not the root problem of Germany in the 30s, the root problem was Germany’s representative democracy that messed up things so badly, particularly with hyperinflation, that the people, desperate, turned to Hitler; to a “visionary leader.

Anyone observing the US can see how US representative democracy is rapidly deteriorating because the politicians can not help but use their excessive power to corrupt everything, including the voters with many “gifts; mostly by approving many laws and policies that are weakening the country. Americans should demand direct democracy before the time when they can demand nothing arrives in America.

Victor Lopez

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