Monday, June 25, 2012

Keep the recall process the way it is

Criticisms are unwarranted, and miss the point: recalls serve democratic purpose

With yet another article describing how lawmakers are calling for a change to Wisconsin's recall law, it's time once again to argue in defense of the current system.

There's no doubt that a majority of the state is suffering from recall fatigue. And exit polls from the election indicate that a majority of voters only want a recall to occur when "official misconduct" occurs.

Yet that wasn't the true foundation of recalls in our, nor any other, state. Recalls serve as a check for citizens to have on their representatives, to ensure that their interests are being promoted and that outside interests are limited -- especially those of a corporatist nature.

"Fighting Bob" La Follette, who championed the idea of a recall in Wisconsin at the start of the 20th century, expressed it best when he stated:
Whenever a representative government fails, it fails because the representative proves incompetent or false to his trust. Entrenched in office for his full term, his constituency is powerless and must submit to misrepresentation. There is no way to correct his blunders or to protect against his betrayal.
La Follette added, "I do not believe you will ever get any true representative government in the United States until there is in the hands of the people the power to recall the representative who betrays him." In other words, recalls grant the electorate the chance to change course, if they determine it's needed, after a politician has lost their confidence.

Egregious behavior definitely classifies as a reason to recall an elected official. Anytime a representative acts in a manner unbecoming to the office he holds, he should be held to account for those actions -- including criminal acts that he may have committed.

But recalls were never intended to be limited to that condition. Elections themselves are meant to place into office the people we feel are best able to serve our interests. Recalls are instruments used to get rid of "lemons" -- politicians that seemed great at the time of the original election, but turned out to have serious policy problems midway through their term.

Wisconsin has a lemon law for vehicles found to be defective after purchase. It makes sense that we also have a constitutional provision allowing for removing defective leaders.

The recall law should remain in place to protect voters from both egregious behavior and misrepresentation of the people's values.

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