The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 8:
Points to certain well-recognized Lim-
itations on the Referendum—that is,
on the use of Direct Democracy.

THE CONSTITUTION of the United States guarantees each state a republican form of government. The commonwealths adopt and amend their own constitutions by referendum votes and some let the electorate vote on measures and even initiate legislation. But the Supreme Court has ruled that a state cannot use a more

"democratic"
method of ratifying an amendment of the Constitution of the United States than those which that instrument provides. The ratifying body must be the state legislature, or, exceptionally, a convention called for the purpose. It cannot be the electorate.

There was a period—from the beginning of the century to the first World War—when the slogan was that the cure for the evils of democracy was more democracy. Legislatures that were not responsive to the popular will should be short-circuited by the initiative and referendum. Elected officials should be subject to recall by the electorate. As a candidate for the presidency in 1911-12, and anxious for the support of William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson thought it politically expedient to make a speech declaring that he wished

-75-

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