In politics it is always important to keep from demonizing your opponents excessively. Whatever you say, it’s important not to slip into thinking that everyone who is against you must be bent on harming the world. Impugning motives is an easy habit to fall into when you’re spending long hours passionately working for your cause.

But too much telling yourself that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them Voldermort means that sometimes, when you encounter someone who really is motivated by hatred and spite, you don’t pay enough attention to fully comprehend the significance of their actions.

If you want to see the real agenda of America’s political movements, take a look at the propositions they put up in dates where issues can be put to a ballot by public signature. Those put by the left are generally tax increases to fund education or environmental projects. Conservatives can disagree with the principle, or argue that the wording will create unintended consequences. Indeed even most environment groups are opposing proposition seven in California, saying that while clearly well-intentioned it would end up harming the renewable energy industries it is trying to help.

But that is a far cry from claiming you have to be a person of ill-will to support, let alone propose, such a thing.

That’s not always the case with the propositions from the right, summarised at feministing. By far the most attention has been focused on California’s Proposition 8, a move to ban gay marriage. It’s pretty hard to find a rational argument for Prop 8, which is why the for case are basing their ads around scare campaigns that if it fails “Gay marriage will be taught in schools”, although exactly what this means is not clear. However, to someone marinated in centuries of homophobia gay marriage can sound scary, and I’m sure Prop 8s supporters think they’re doing the right thing.

Colorado has a blizzard of constitutional amendments. The sheer number of them is a problem, ensuring that most voters will only be aware of the issues around a handful, and may either vote on inadequate descriptions or based on endorsements from those they trust.

Most profile externally focusses on the doomed to fail Amendment 48, which would imbue all fertilized eggs with the status of persons. Obviously this would clear the way for bans on abortion, either via the legislature or judges who oddly wouldn’t be labelled “activist”. It would also presumably kill off IVF locally, since fertilizing more eggs than may need to be implanted is fairly essential to making the process viable. Opponents are also arguing that it would ban oral contraceptives and IUDs, although this is disputed by supporters.

The consequences are horrific, but really this is the logical conclusion of Catholic teaching, and that of many Protestant and non-Chrisitian groups as well. I’m convinced that many supporters really are misogynists, but also plenty are not, presumably including the female students promoting it at University of Colorado, Denver, when I drop in.

It’s harder to see the justification for Amendment 46, which seeks to ban all equal opportunity programs. I certainly accept there are arguments, both in theory and practise, against affirmative action in hiring or university intake. But this amendment goes far beyond that. It would outlaw state support for self defence classes for women, or Universities running mentoring programs for minority groups. In fact if 46 passes it would probably be illegal for a school to ask a teacher to spend an hour persuading boys to join a dance group if there were too many girls without partners (maybe the no-case should argue it will encourage lesbianism if girls have to dance together). Perhaps Ward Connolly, the millionaire Californian behind the proposal, either didn’t think of these aspects, or couldn’t find ways to narrow the focus, but it seems more likely he’s pretty happy to see even these minor blows to patriarchy and white dominance undermined.

But the real kicker is Amendment 54. On the surface it sounds long overdue. People with no-bid government contracts, or their families, will not be able to donate to candidates or advocate on issues. This sound good to those of us weary of developers and gambling venues buying parties and local councillors wholesale. But the bill is specifically written to exclude the people you’re probably thinking of, and include hundreds of thousands you’re not.

No state school teacher, nurse or firefighter would be allowed to donate to the candidate of their choice. Since families are included, marrying a public servant would take away your right to donate or campaign. What is more, loopholes have been created to allow many big companies, the main concern for most voters, to keep on doing their thang. If a candidate took a single donation from a family member of a teacher they could find themselves in legal trouble. The supporters don’t deny this on their website, although they do object to the suggestion police might be affected.

The language of 54 sounds appealing, and it has serious money behind it, so it could well pass. But if people knew what it would do it’s unlikely support would make it into double figures. So what of the people who wrote the amendment, who are funding the pro-campaign? What kind of mentality do you have to have to think that being the son or daughter of a firefighter makes you unfit to participate in the political process? Apologists can’t argue that the advocates are blinded by centuries of bigotry. Teachers and nurses may have low status, but they’re not generally the object for hate campaigns, and after 9/11 few Americans were as idolised as firefighters.

Amendment 54 demonstrates that at least some American conservatives are simply out to silence the voices of those likely to oppose them. In the process, it makes the motivations for many other propositions frighteningly clear.

Peter Fray

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