Eternal Vigilance Required: Politicians' Persistent Threats to Popular Democracy

As with everyone, politicians and government officials like to get their way, and most of them don't appreciate it when citizens take charge with popular initiative, referendum and recall petition campaigns. Michigan's constitution recognizes the right of the people to exercise these forms of direct democracy, but that doesn't prevent elected and appointed officials here from trying to restrict this right.

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For example, during the past 10 years, at least six bills have been introduced in the Legislature to restrict the right of citizens to recall an elected official. Several dozen more bills have been introduced to make it more difficult to gather signatures on ballot measure petitions. Legislative trickery has been successfully employed to deny citizens the right of referendum on controversial new laws, by exploiting a constitutional loophole that somehow the Legislature never gets around to fixing. And the body authorized to ensure that ballot measures initiated by the people meet reasonable standards of clarity has abused its power in a blatantly political fashion to deny citizens their rights.

Indeed, nowhere does the motto "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance" apply more than in preserving the rights of citizens to employ these direct democracy tools to take charge over the politicians.

Paul Jacob is the founder and president of Citizens in Charge, a national organization created to protect and expand these rights. To illustrate the persistent threat of politicians and wealthy special interests who seek to infringe these rights, Citizens in Charge has created a humorous "Don't Be Fooled" video — enjoy!