Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Way back in November of 1787, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were hard at work writing what we now call the Federalist Papers. Hamilton in particular was a writing machine, generating the majority of the essays published in an effort to rally citizen support behind the proposed U.S. Constitution. John Jay helped out a bit, writing four before a bout of serious illness slowed his efforts. After recovering, Jay wrote one more paper and was subsequently bashed in the head by a brick during a New York street riot, which left, as Jay’s wife reported, “two large holes in his forehead.” That left Hamilton and Madison to carry the load, and carry the load they did, ultimately publishing four score and four essays in various newspapers in an effort to convince skeptical citizens that their fundamental liberties were better protected by a national government with a strong constitution than by a small (and, according to Hamilton, “petty”) state government. 

Which, of course, brings me to the 88 cents raised in support of Colorado Amendment 76…

I suggest you read an article on Colorado Politics about the monies raised — over $10 million — by various organizations seeking to influence voters on the various ballot initiatives Coloradans will face when voting this year. 

No less than 11 different statewide proposals will appear on your mail-in ballot (which, by the way, is safe from fraud). And before I once more leap atop my rickety soapbox to decry the fact that we, as citizens, are voting on actual policy issues, let me spend a moment or two reminding you where all that money is going. 

The largest donations so far, not surprisingly, center on just about the most controversial issue in American politics, abortion. But you might be a tad startled by which issue garnered the second most money — Amendment 77, which is supported by various casinos, whose donations support an effort to make changes to the gaming limits in our three gambling cities. 

There are other measures on which you will be asked to vote. One is regarding whether taxes on tobacco and vaping products should be increased to help fund education in our state. And no less than five committees have raised money in support or opposition to Proposition 113, regarding Colorado’s participation in the national popular vote idea. Three committees say yes and two say no (the correct answer is “yes,” as I wrote about back in June). You’ll be asked to vote on whether Colorado should have a paid family leave — Proposition 118 — and on whether to reduce our state income tax — Proposition 116 — because, I guess, taxes are always bad but don’t cut my services. But I digress…

Lastly, I want to draw your attention to the vital issue raised by Amendment 76, which would change the Colorado constitution by one word only, in that it would alter the text from “every” citizen can vote to “only” citizens can vote. That is already true, and that may explain why only — and I’m not kidding — 88 cents has been raised in support of the measure. 

So why am I again droning on about these issues, both petty and momentous? (Ed: an excellent question).

Now atop my aforementioned soapbox, let me again assert that the good people of Colorado should not be voting on these issues. As Madison powerfully wrote in Federalist #10 (see? I got back to the opening paragraph after all), special-interest groups always pop up due to human nature. And these groups always want to get more for their people at the expense of the rest of us. Madison warns that “faction” is “sown in the nature of man” and therefore we need to deal with the effects of faction, as we can’t get rid of the cause. Therefore, Fed 10 argues, we need to place legislative authority in an elected group of folks — a republic!

When you are sick, you do not poll your neighbors to see what you might have. No, you go to a doctor — an expert with the time and knowledge to rigorously evaluate your condition. When you want your plumbing repaired, you do not ask your friends to vote on what type of pipe you should replace. No, you call an expert plumber, who knows. 

In politics, both nationally and on the state level, we elect people to be experts and to act on our behalf. State Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, for example (full disclosure: a buddy of mine) is an expert on restorative justice. If an issue came up regarding that important crime-mitigating initiative, I would much rather Pete be involved in making the final decisions than the citizens of Colorado (like me) voting on what they think sounds right.

Look, at the end of the day, we elect and pay (though we pay them very little) people to represent us. Implicit in that selection is our support for them to work hard, study hard, and make the hard decisions. But with our current system of state constitutional tweaking, we instead ask our friends and neighbors to, well, vote metaphorically on what antibiotic is needed for an illness.

So that’s my 88 cents worth. We elect them, let’s use them. Madison would want us to.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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