To the left, the world is not enough

I’ve probably given as many pixels to failed candidate Rick Weiland as anyone outside his native South Dakota, but it’s because I think he’s very useful as a gauge of reactionary liberalism in a part of the nation which has maintained a streak of populism surprising for such a rural area. While the South has gone almost completely Republican, those in the rural Midwest will occasionally elect Democrats they deem to be centrists or populists on a statewide level. South Dakota has rejected Weiland several times, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stop trying and to me that exhibits precisely how the far left operates and why it’s important to hear about their desires. (He could also use the money since he can’t manage his campaign funds, but I digress.)

So yesterday, in the wake of the debate about CRomnibus, I received a missive called “We can’t breathe!” from which I quote in part:

The revenge of the money changers is in full swing in Congress today.

Let the big banks have their swaps back. Let Las Vegas advertise itself with your tax dollars. Increase by 1000% the amount billionaires can contribute to buy off our political parties.

Men of color are not the only ones they have in a choke-hold – now they’ve got all of us – and it’s way past time to tell them none of us can breathe!

Emboldened by the Obama-haters they just elected, Wall Street is readying the nooses for Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. They think they can’t be stopped.

But WE can stop them!

24 states allow initiatives and referendums – 24 states where you can show them exactly what you think of their choke-hold on the rest of us.

So let’s put what they are doing to us on the ballot in those 24 states and find out who is right.


Help us close down the debt on my just completed Senate campaign, and fire up our initiative and referendum team. Because we are going to turn our little state into a laboratory for direct democracy.

A laboratory and an export market.

Let’s put Citizens United, Ferguson, and Big Bank plutocracy on trial at the ballot box.

Because when you go down fighting instead of whimpering, a funny thing often happens: people notice, then they think a little, and pretty soon they’re fighting too.

If you have to vote on it you have to think about it.  So let’s put our ideas directly on the ballot and pick a fight. (All emphasis in original.)

This is the mirror-reverse of the strategy Maryland Republicans tried in 2012 to petition already-enacted legislation to referendum, which failed. Looking back, I wonder if the Maryland Republican Party isn’t kicking itself for not placing the “bathroom bill” or 2013 gun bill on the ballot this year – we may have even had a more shocking victory by repealing both laws. (The counter-argument, of course, is the “sleeping dog” school of thought which liked the Democrats’ low turnout – perhaps the inclusion of those ballot measures would have hurt Larry Hogan’s chances by bringing out more liberal Democrats.)

It’s also true that, even in the face of a Republican wave election, four states that had a minimum wage increase on the ballot, including the aforementioned South Dakota, passed these measures while electing Republican Senators – in Alaska and Arkansas the Democrats seeking re-election to the Senate were defeated on that same ballot. (Nebraska was the fourth state.) Again, this shows the streak of populism which occurs in the Midwest.

Obviously Weiland sees a trend, exhibited in his home state, where direct democracy can succeed in accomplishing those things a representative republic would not. As the minimum wage example shows, people can be fooled into voting against their best interests – that’s why we were founded as a Constitutional republic.

Weiland’s mindset is shared by a lot of people, though. Witness the populist appeal to Southern voters espoused by the writer of the linked New Republic piece, Michael A. Cooper, Jr., who pleads with his party:

Speaking as a southerner, we need help, not from the DCCC but from government to deal with issues like homelessness and drug addiction.

These aren’t esoteric concerns Beltway liberals tut-tut about like global warming or political correctness, but true pocketbook issues which unfortunately tend to affect the poorest among us. Conservatives would prefer these issues be dealt with on more of a faith-based level through private charity but it can also be addressed by local and state governments. (By the way, thanks to Jackie Wellfonder for bringing the New Republic piece to my attention just in time for me to add it in because it fit the point so well.)

Just as the right has its TEA Party movement which has cooled to the mainstream Republican party – and for good reason – many activists on the left are embracing their new savior as Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose populist screed against Wall Street has won the backing of elements of the Democrat Party who think Barack Obama sold them out and Hillary Clinton is too close to the right wing. They are also fed up with the government, but stare at the problem from the other side of the fence because they want the power of government to regulate corporatism out of existence, or rein it in as fascism dictates.

Meanwhile, while these Warren acolytes whine about what Barack Obama is not providing them, they fail to see that many of their goals are being realized anyway. Truly it’s the Right that’s not being served.

As the new year arrives and Republicans take over Congress (along with the governor’s chair in Annapolis) we will begin to see all the stories and tales of woe unreported on over the last six years. There’s a lot of work to do, and Republican leaders in Congress didn’t get off on the right foot by passing CRomnibus. We must demand, now that we’ve granted them the opportunity to complete the FY2016 budget in regular order as they’ve wished to do for several years, that our priorities be the ones funded and the mistakes of the last six years deleted.

Perhaps we can also do our part in using the referendum system in advancing conservative causes as well. Two can play that game, and it’s just as important to motivate our voters as it is for the other side to buy theirs.

Ending with a whimper

It really wasn’t noticed because not many people made a big enough deal of it, but for the third time in two years a referendum petition drive failed to meet the initial hurdle of gathering about 18,500 signatures by May 31. could not get enough interest in repealing the “bathroom bill,” formally known as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014. Thus it will take effect October 1, and the first abuse of the new law and resulting confrontation will probably take place by the 3rd of that month. has now struck out on both the transgender bill and an effort to overturn a bill terminating the death penalty which passed in 2013. A separate group, Free State Petitions, attempted to petition an onerous gun control measure to referendum last year, but also fell short.

In this year’s version, there was a late push to gather enough signatures – netting about 6,000 – but it fell short with 17,575, according to Delegate Neil Parrott, who heads

So many people did so much and we are very grateful for your enthusiastic support. It is difficult to come this close and then fall short, and yet we know that it was only through this effort that people became aware of the effects of this bill. The press certainly was not spreading the word. YOU did that.

Our goal at is to listen to you and to give you a voice in your government.  People overwhelmingly asked us to petition the “Bathroom Bill”, and we did. Most people did not even know about the bill, let alone how it will impact our safety and privacy. However, when people heard about this issue, the most common response was, “Seriously?” … and they were very willing to sign. Our biggest disappointment is that word spread too slowly to make this first deadline.

In looking at county-by-county totals, it’s apparent the Eastern Shore didn’t do all that well in gathering signatures, as the nine counties only accounted for 1,079 signatures between them – Dorchester and Somerset were lowest with 40 apiece. Leading the way was Parrott’s home county of Washington with 3,688. In a nutshell, that seems to signify the problem as word indeed spread slowly.

With that failure, it appears we will only have one statewide issue on the November ballot. In 2013 the General Assembly passed a “lockbox” requirement for the Transportation Trust Fund – unfortunately, the lock is simply a 3/5 majority of both houses. It would make more of a difference if Republicans got up to the 57 in the House and 19 in the Senate which would make them more than a 2/5 minority in those respective bodies, but otherwise the lock is pretty weak.

Running out of time

From the tone of the e-mail I received today, it appears that the petition drive to bring the “bathroom bill” to referendum is struggling to receive support.

With one week left to gather signatures for the 1st turn-in, we need more petitions. If we receive just a few more in the mail this week, that will not be enough. We are asking for help from everyone reading this email. Your own signature is not enough for this petition drive to succeed.

Would you be willing to ask your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to sign the petition?

Over the next 5 days, we need thousands of signatures to meet the deadline. If you do not want for your daughters and granddaughters to have to be concerned about the risk of having a pedophile or sex-offender freely using the women’s restroom, I sincerely hope that you will act now. If we do not act now, the safety and privacy of our families will be at risk when this law goes into effect, October 1st.

Whether consciously or not, the backers of the bill may have found a route to success. People are so busy assisting other campaigns that they don’t seem to have a lot of time to help out with this petition. And to be quite honest, the experience of 2012 and losing on three different ballot measures is probably souring people on the whole referendum process. Why go through the whole petition process only to lose?

Moreover, it’s guaranteed that opponents are going to be painted with the “homophobic bigot” brush regardless of their legitimate concerns about privacy. Unfortunately, not every facility has a “family” restroom or locker room where the tiny percentage of Maryland residents who are dealing with these gender selection issues can be themselves. Most places only have men’s and women’s restrooms because that how all but a tiny portion are made.

Along a political line, there may also be a thought in the back of the mind of some Republican statewide candidates that anything with the potential to turn out Democratic voters should be avoided – again this goes back to the 2012 experience. Everything from the electorate to the ballot language for some of the provisions seemed to be stacked against conservatives in that election and there’s no reason to assume there won’t be headwinds this time out.

Yet regardless of the prospect for success in November, the message that failure to achieve the proper number of signatures would send is one that the General Assembly can bully the people of Maryland into whatever progressive wet dream they desire. If you prefer to keep the women’s restroom limited to women, make sure to sign the petition and get it back by Thursday – there has to be about 19,000 valid signatures collected by May 31 to advance to the full requirement of about 56,000 signatures by June 30. Once the primary is over, people can go pedal to the metal to finish the job in the last week but they have to make this May 31 deadline first.