Notes from the Hill: How many outsiders does it take to short-change the people?
The circus is in town, featuring performers from all kinds of exotic places, with lots of money and political capital to spend, and with one goal in mind: to short-change the people on Flag Day. The Statehouse schedule in Boston lists another session of the constitutional convention on June 14, where the marriage amendment is up for a second and final vote.
Gov. Deval Patrick made headlines this month when he lamented that a ballot campaign on marriage in Massachusetts would turn into an attention-distracting political circus, thus kicking off a political circus of his own as part of a new national campaign to prevent the people in Massachusetts from voting on the marriage amendment.
The center ring features the fabulous fifties, a group of legislators who have voted, or who promise to vote, to move the amendment to the 2008 ballot, and who now are the focus of a nationwide effort to get them to switch, stay home, or say sayonara by leaving for another job. At least 50 legislators need to vote “yes” at the constitutional convention to put the marriage issue on the November 2008 ballot.
A delegation of anti-vote activists traveled to Washington, D.C. recently, and convinced leaders of the Democratic Party to become Democrats against democracy. Swooping in on their high wirelesses like trapeze artists in response, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and party chair Howard Dean made calls to the Statehouse in Boston.
What could be their pitch? Something like, well, ‘‘Please take away your people’s civil right to vote because ‘um, you know, we shouldn’t take away people’s civil rights.’’
Dollars are flowing in from deep pockets from throughout the United States, including a software tycoon from Atlanta, to strangle debate in the cradle of liberty. A politician from the Midwest went before a digital camera to compare Massachusetts voters to the “mob,” an accusation that was sent by DVD to every state legislator in Boston.
Perhaps the outsiders dare to dictate the behavior of our state’s legislators not because the outsiders are constituents, and they certainly are not, but because they feel they have the money and power to override the people anywhere and at any level.
Is it working? Local media go rumor surfing and report a shifting legislative tide that threatens to beach the amendment. VoteOnMarriage.org disagrees, and notes that none of the fabulous fifties has announced his or her change of mind. Leaders on both sides confirm that the votes are still there to send the amendment to the ballot, but of course, the outside pressure is extraordinary.
No one will know for sure until the final roll call vote is closed and the votes are counted. Constituents who support the right to vote on the marriage amendment must continue to speak out since, on the really difficult votes, a legislator’s final decision often obeys the last constituent voice heard.
The Web site at VoteOnMarriage.org has an easy-to-use email system for reaching your legislators and, just as importantly, for sending letters to the editors of your local media. The Catholic bishops will again ask parishes to publish bulletin announcements before June 14. Keep praying, especially for the legislators who want the people to vote, and who are facing the outside pressure. Don’t let the outsiders shut us out.