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Arnold does the right thing for the wrong reason

By Doug Patton
web posted October 3, 2005

History records that as Benjamin Franklin emerged with his colleagues from Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, a curious woman asked, "Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?"

Franklin's reply: "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

A republic. Not a theocracy or a dictatorship. And certainly not a democracy. Unfortunately, some of the best educated among us call our system exactly that — a democracy. It is no such thing.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerApparently, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to consult his Webster's Dictionary for the following definition of a republic: "A state in which the sovereign power resides in a certain body of the people (the electorate) and is exercised by representatives elected by, and responsible to, them."

The governor seems confused about the role of the different branches of government, as evidenced by his stated reason for exercising his executive authority to veto the ill-conceived same-sex marriage bill passed by the leftist zealots in the California General Assembly. Schwarzenegger said the issue was not for the legislature to decide, but rather was a matter "for the people and the courts to decide."

No, it is not. And even though state government is not federal government, and California voters have a voice in public policy through their referendum process, there simply cannot be a public vote on every issue. Furthermore, the judicial branch certainly is not the place for these kinds of decisions. Such tangled litigation is at the root of far too many bitter court battles, which are tearing our nation's fabric to shreds.

No, it is for moments like this that "we, the people," elect legislators. And when legislatures cannot or will not do the right thing, the people expect their chief executives to do what they were elected to do.

Pure democracy was rejected by Franklin and the others because it was rightly viewed as the path to anarchy or tyranny. The Founders saw the folly of allowing the people to vote on virtually everything. Instead, they wisely instituted a system whereby the people would elect legislative representatives and a chief executive to serve as a check and balance on those legislators' powers. These officials would hold their jobs as long as the voters believed they were serving the public good.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a major celebrity and imposing public figure who can command enormous press coverage when he wants it. Imagine how inspired most Californians would feel if he were to call a prime time press conference to say something like this:

"I am vetoing this bill for three reasons. First, the people of this state elected me to exercise common sense about what is the best public policy for California. I have done so here to the best of my ability because I believe the institution of marriage is the bedrock of society. It is in society's best interest to nurture and encourage marriage, not to mock it, as the California Assembly has done by sending this legislation to my desk.

"Second, the people of California have made it abundantly clear that they agree with the traditional definition of marriage and do not want to see it altered.

"Finally, as Harry Truman used to say, ‘the buck stops here.' It should not be the responsibility of the people, through the ballot process, to have to police the actions of their legislatures and their courts. And it should not be the province of the judiciary to decree how we, the people, define ourselves and our institutions. Some things do not need to be redefined. Marriage is one of those things. Any questions?"

Gov. Schwarzenegger should be praised for doing the right thing, but he is doing it for the wrong reasons.

Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a political speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly column can be read in newspapers across the country and on selected Internet web sites, including www.TheConservativeVoice.com and www.GOPUSA.com, where he also serves as the Nebraska editor. Readers can write him at dpatton@neonramp.com.

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