Political observers are starting to identify how the nation’s two political parties have marginalized the majority of moderate voters, the voters who comprise the largest block of citizens in our country. Changing patterns — with extreme positions both left and right — leave a ripe middle ground that can be exploited.
Working to enact important social and legal changes that cannot or will not pass muster in the legislative process — a process that requires compromise and considers the legal ramifications of new laws — Maine has been inundated with referenda beset with complications that later require fixing. At the very least, they burn legislative time. Urgent budget and policy issues languish while lawmakers struggle to make sense — and then law — out of intrinsically flawed initiatives.
Last year’s battle over the “tip credit” portion of the minimum wage law is a case in point; those working on bills to adjust the referendum were hounded with accusations that they were undoing the will of the voters.
At the forefront today is Maine’s referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. An issue as contentious as legalized marijuana cannot be resolved with a simple majority of voters at an election. This process only thrusts the issue onto the Legislature, where the partisans must work with the majority middle to modify and rebuild the law so that it is workable for all.
Creating sound law that addresses all concerns, including federal censure, is the practical, reasonable way forward. It is a job best handled in our Legislature, not at the ballot box.