Who's Afraid of Democracy? Not me.
"There's nothing that scares the rulers of America more than the prospect of democracy breaking out." David Graeber
Winston Apple - May 30, 2022
I am personally very excited that voters in Missouri will be asked whether we should have a convention to “revise and amend” the Missouri Constitution. That will give us an opportunity to put a system of proxies for citizens in place and enact other reforms that would make Missouri a more perfect democracy.
The prospect of a convention strikes terror in the hearts of some of my fellow Missourians. I understand why they are afraid. The radical right has been working for years to call an “Article V Convention” to amend the U. S. Constitution in antidemocratic ways. The manner in which a constitutional convention would be organized in Missouri is democratic throughout. I believe that if we put democracy to a vote in Missouri, democracy will win.
With those thoughts in mind, I would like to offer a few words of comfort for my fellow Missourians who are frightened by the prospect of a constitutional convention in Missouri.
The Republicans in control of our state legislature have the power to call a constitutional convention anytime. They do not have to wait for the question to be asked every 20 years. They can also propose any constitutional amendment they want at any time. Any amendments to the Missouri Constitution they propose, whether individually or through a convention, will only take effect if and when they are approved by a majority of the voters in a statewide referendum. This means they have nothing to gain and everything to lose if a convention is held.
The people of Missouri, on the other hand, have to raise and spend millions of dollars and invest countless volunteer hours gathering signatures on petitions to even propose a constitutional amendment and then spend millions more making sure the proposed amendment passes. By comparison, what we can accomplish through a convention is amazingly efficient in terms of both the money that needs to be raised and the volunteer hours that need to be invested.
We can propose any number of proactive amendments that will make Missouri more democratic and a better place to live and work. Any positive amendments we come up with will take effect 30 days after they are approved by the voters. And they cannot be repealed by the General Assembly except by a majority of the voters at a subsequent referendum.
The process by which a convention is called and conducted is democratic at every point in the process. The will of a majority of the voters determines whether or not there will be a convention. A majority of the voters in each state senate district elect 68 of the delegates to the convention. A majority of the voters statewide elect fifteen at-large delegates. At the convention, a majority of the delegates must approve any amendments for them to be submitted to voters. And after the convention adjourns, a majority of the voters statewide must approve any proposed amendments before they take effect.
Lastly, I want to point out that while some Republicans in the General Assembly and among the Republican base are definitely on-board with a radical right-wing agenda, undermining faith in our elections, suppressing the right to vote, and doing whatever it takes to get Donald Trump back in the White House no matter how badly he loses the 2024 election, there are also some Republicans in Missouri (and the nation) who believe in and support democracy. The idea of proxies for citizens will be supported by many Republicans; and by a great many members of the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and other minor parties; and by independent voters.
When voters in Missouri have been given the opportunity to vote directly on issues, they have consistently supported proactive measures. The anti-union, so-called “right-to-work” law passed by the General Assembly was rejected by 67% of the voters. Clean Missouri passed with 62% of the vote. An increase in the minimum wage also passed with 62% of the vote. And Medicaid expansion was enacted with the support of 52% of the voters.
I am extremely confident that if we make the 2022 election in Missouri a referendum on democracy, democracy will win. With democracy under attack and on the defensive all over the world, I believe the best defense is a good offense. I do not intend to stand idly by and watch our already deeply flawed democracy become even more dysfunctional. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, “I know not what course others may choose, but as for me – I intend to fight like hell to make Missouri and America more democratic, not less.”
Copyright 2022 Gary Winston Apple