This Washington

Rep. Carlyle Gets All 1787 on Tim Eyman

By Josh Feit September 10, 2010

Given that PubliCola is a Federalist Papers reference, we couldn't help but publish state Rep. Reuven Carlyle's (D-36, Ballard) erudite (if a bit over-the-top ... Federalist #58?) response to Tim Eyman in full.

Eyman, in his own email to legislators this week, wanted to know, "Do you support or oppose Initiative 1053, which reinstates I-960's 2/3 vote requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes?"

Given that it's conservatives who are citing the Constitution these days (although they seem to have a blind spot on that score when it comes to the mosque controversy in Manhattan), it was also noteworthy to see Carlyle get all 1787 on Eyman.

Here's Carlyle in full.

Thanks for your thoughtful note.

Where do I stand on I-1053?

I stand in defense of our constitution against I-1053's moral assault upon James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers of our nation who had the courageous honesty to agree with virtual unanimity that most supermajority rules inevitably march toward tyranny of the minority.

I stand in defense of our constitution against I-1053's moral assault upon the great reluctance of our Founders to allow supermajority only in the most extreme structural changes to our republican form of government that are above and beyond any one policy issue of the day.I stand in defense of our constitution against I-1053's moral assault on our Founding Fathers' cherished view of the careful and vigilant checks and balances between representative and direct democracy.

I stand in defense of our constitution against I-1053's moral assault on the interpretive blueprint of our government the Federalist Papers!  58 which argues with courageous honesty that supermajority "leads more directly to...the ruin of popular governments, than any other which has yet been displayed among us."

Federalist Papers 58:

"In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices to the general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences. Lastly, it would facilitate and foster the baneful practice of secessions; a practice which has shown itself even in States where a majority only is required; a practice subversive of all the principles of order and regular government; a practice which leads more directly to public convulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any other which has yet been displayed among us."

I respect the frustration about the particular public policy issues of our day that proponents of I-1053 feel.  And yet even if you are 100% right about every complaint of any and all taxes, and your opponents are 100% wrong, you are still instituting an undemocratic method that assaults the moral foundation of democracy itself.

Fellow citizens, I encourage those of you who treasure our state and federal constitution to look deeper, to reflect harder on the profound constitutional implications of tomorrow's policy battles under supermajority requirements regardless of whether the issue is taxes, government programs or social issues.  Today you may enjoy the scenario where a "no" vote against a tax or fee is worth 1.5 times the "yes" vote of those in favor of such a policy choice.  But what of tomorrow when your "yes" or "no" vote is worth less than another legislators' vote on another issue dear to your heart on the other side?

What of our state and nation if your core idea consumes representative democracy in every category from taxes to social policy to our ability to defend the 10th Amendment itself?  What is our future?  Why 2/3 majority vote and why not 9/10th?  Why not simple majority to regulate abortion rights and 2/3 majority to regulate water access rights or levy equalization for rural education districts?  Representative democracy is not the enemy of direct democracy, they are two vibrant and healthy methods of ensuring checks and balances in the governance of society.

Do not believe that future activists on the left and right in tomorrow's time will not attempt to use your precedence today to justify the specific public policy crusade of their time.

You are using simple majority democracy--the bedrock of our system of government--to destroy the very democratic method of majority rule embraced with heart, soul, passion and spirit by the Founders of our nation at the risk of their own lives.  Millions have died in our nation's wars  to defend the very idea of democratic rule against the mistress of tyranny of the minority.  Yet, here today, you invite her deceptive seduction inside our home with open arms.
Defend the constitution!  Defend democracy!

Your partner in service,
Reuven Carlyle
State Representative
36th Legislative District
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