Ignoring the Will of the People

Sometimes I just don’t get it. I’ve always been a big proponent of democracy. Even when Donald Trump won the presidency last year, I resigned myself to going along with the result, because that’s how it works. You make the rules, and you live with the outcome, even if you don’t agree with it. (Although in light of all the Russian meddling in the election, there’s a big part of me that wishes we could press the “Undo” button and run that vote again.)

But in Maine at least, it seems following the will of the people is becoming less and less important. A couple of cases in  point. Last year, Maine voted to legalize marijuana in the state. It was a nail biter of a vote, with the vote to legalize winning, 50.2% to 49.8%. Maine also voted to start ranked choice voting in the state, by a margin of 52% to 48%, and to solidify state funding of public schools via an income tax surcharge (by a bare 6,000 votes).

And yet here we are, almost a year later, and the legislature and governor have a really spotty record of actually making those votes a reality. They were close votes, and it seems like politicians have decided that in cases where the vote was really close, they don’t necessarily have to go with the will of the people. They can claim the people didn’t really know what they were voting on, or that they didn’t understand the implications.

Politicians wear the big boy pants, in other words, and they can just pat the people on the head and tell them to go back to their cartoons while the grownups make the real decisions.

I get that people disagree with the outcome of elections. Close elections in particular. And I get that there are some speed bumps in the way of making these votes a reality. But to me, when politicians refuse to try to enact the will of the voters in good faith, the system breaks down. Even if I disagree with the vote outcome. I voted against the casino yesterday. If it had won, however, I would have wanted it to be built. That’s how it works.

Governor LePage has vetoed Medicaid expansion five times in Maine. In the vote yesterday, Mainers supported the expansion, 59% to 41%. And yet now LePage is saying he’s not going to let it happen. Not unless it’s done the way he wants it done.

This isn’t how it works. I’m sure plenty of Republicans will show up to jettison a flurry of words that justifies it, but that’s all it will be. Words. To me, this would be like America just making Clinton the president, even though Trump won the electoral college. Just as I would have been against that (no matter how much I might wish anyone other than Trump were president), I’m against this.

The people voted. Do what they told you to do. If it’s hard, then figure out what you need to do to make it happen, and do that. End of story.

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