The Operation of the Initiative, Referendum and Recall in Oregon

By James D. Barnett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
DIRECT LEGISLATION AND POLITICAL PARTIES

"IT is one of the greatest merits of the initiative and referendum that it makes possible a clear separation between local and national issues. Under the older system...the people could express their opinion upon such a matter as the Barlow road purchase only by their choice of legislators. In determining this choice, numerous other questions necessarily played a part.... The method of initiative and referendum permits each voter to express his individual opinion upon every question standing entirely by itself and without admixture of personal or partisan bias. It absolutely separates the business department of legislation from the personal or partisan side.... Under the old system he [the voter] could not vote for his opinion upon this matter of pure business without voting against his party. This was a real misfortune, and it greatly contributed to dishearten the common man with politics.... It was all promises and no performance. Under the Oregon system the voter acts directly upon results. The individual feels his manhood as he could not under the purely representative method."1

But the very general realization of the absence of party issues in state politics, the declining faith in the reality of national party distinctions, and the separation of national and local politics encouraged for some years by the direct, or practically direct, system of election of United States senators, have so largely operated toward the substitution of "business" for partisan politics in elections that the actual effect of direct legislation in this connection is obscured. And its effect upon party

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1
Oregonian, June 10, 1906, p. 6, col. 5.

-185-

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