Over the Hill

Semantics aside, ‘Republickers’ may be on to something

It was in my mailbox last week — the official booklet for our June 8 Primary Election. It included five new propositions to vote on. I thought, “Where are the Republickers when we need them?”

“Republickers” is my name for the people who insist we should never call the United States a democracy. They demand that we only call it a republic. They seem to define a democracy as a dangerous place prone to mob rule.

They define a republic as an orderly place that protects the vulnerable minority from a misinformed majority, which might, for example, vote in socialism and gun regulations.

There’s a lot to be said for the Republickers’ position. I’m often in the minority in many controversies, so I’m all for protecting minorities from runaway majorities. And I’m afraid California’s system of initiative, ballot propositions has become a form of mob rule.

But I think the Republickers are haywire when it comes to defining words. They justify their definitions of “democracy” and “republic” with weak and bogus evidence. I’m not even sure they’re serious. They contradict all the dictionaries I’ve seen. They contradict history, and they contradict common sense.

My “Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus” defines democracy as “government by the whole population usually through elected representatives,” and defines republic as a “nation in which power is held by the people or their elected representatives.”

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, was a member of the “Democratic-Republican” party. It later morphed into the Democratic Party.

The word “republic” isn’t sacred. The full name of the Soviet Union was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Why do Republickers crusade against the word “democracy?” Maybe they’re Republicans who enjoy annoying Democrats. Or maybe they want to weaken the Democratic Party by discrediting its name.

But I will join hands with them if they will help corral California’s ballot initiative system. It’s an example of free-range democracy running amok.

Look at Proposition 16 on the June 8 ballot. It would require local governments to get two-thirds voter approval to spend money to go into the electricity business. Or, if they’re already in that business, they’d need two-thirds voter approval to serve new customers.

That sounds like a taxpayer protection measure until we learn that PG&E spent $3.5 million to get it on the ballot. To me, that smells like a cheap way for PG&E to crush the lower-cost municipal competition.

There may be ways for California to kick its initiative abuse habit. I’ll discuss them next week.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.