“…I believe that anybody who looks at our country over its long illustrious history and Missouri’s history who doesn’t think that there has been a slow steady erosion of people’s voices, I mean the average person’s voice, in our government and the way we do things today, um, and this is just another, overturning what we put on the ballot, is just another step in silencing our, you know, what, our voice about what we want…”
Joe Trippi (left) and former Lieutenant Governor Joe Maxwell (D) (right) in Kansas City for Your Vote Counts!
Blue Girl and I had the opportunity to sit down for a conversation with Joe Trippi and former Missouri Lieutenant Governor Joe Maxwell (D) in Kansas City Wednesday morning about the ballot initiative addressing the Missouri General Assembly’s propensity to overturn the results of ballot initiatives.
The final portion of the transcript:
…Joe Trippi: …and we can get into that [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: But then you’d have arguments in Missouri that’s an oxymoron. [inaudible crosstalk]
Joe Trippi: …but then you’d have to ask, ’cause, that’s what I’m saying. No, that’s my point. Then you have to argue whether, it’s like a, the argument that, uh, hey, you know, our elections, uh, you know, there’s a presumption that, that elections are, are, you know, are, are fair and, and, you know, [inaudible]. There’s also, you, you’d like to make the presumption that the legislature actually are thinking adults who don’t, who aren’t influenced by how much money an interest group [crosstalk] will give.
Show Me Progress: Or, or they’re, they’re trying to solve a problem [crosstalk][inaudible]…
…Joe Trippi: There’s nothing [crosstalk, yeah, they’re pure, they’re very pure. Yeah, that system’s really pure. I mean, that’s what I’m saying. So, you know, look, there, there’s not like there’s any perfect way to do it. But I think the more citizens are participating in, the more citizens have a say and the, and the harder it is. The easier it is for citizens to participate and the harder it is for legislators to undo what citizens, when citizens voice things in initiative the better the pro, the better we’ll, we’ll be then the system we’ve got now which is the legislature doesn’t do what it needs to do and then when we take action they say, oh, you idiots, you don’t know what you’re talking about. We think you’re wrong. And that, it was a mistake [crosstalk] and, you know…
Show Me Progress: Yeah, and, and it’s been interesting for me, the, the idea of the citizen participation as, as, as we’ve been doing this for the past couple of years watching this. It’s, it’s almost scary that, um, you know in two thousand ten to see the, the drop in people who were, were participating. [inaudible] Because I think there is a fear, two thousand twelve, of not, not sustaining the kinds of interest that we saw in two thousand eight. [crosstalk]
Joe Trippi: No, that’s definitely in the [inaudible].
Show Me Progress: And it has, and it has a huge impact.
Joe Trippi: No, that, that’s what I’m saying, so that’s like, you know, let’s keep cutting off, making it tougher. Hey, you guys pass something, we’re outta here, you wasted all your time. That was anybody who carried those petitions, anybody who knocked on any doors, anybody sent twenty-five bucks in. [voice: “Yeah.”] You wasted it. It was a waste, ’cause us guys up in Jeff City said, you were wrong. Well that’s a great message to send to people about what, why they should be active in politics. That’s, I mean, that’s why, you know, I’m for this thing. I mean, I think we need to buttress and make strong the foundation where American people and Missouri, people of Missouri can participate, can, uh, have more of a say. And we’d probably be a lot better off, um, you know, if we had some sort of system where you could do that, get, you know, where they had more of a say directly in Washington, too. But, you know, that’s, that’s a dif, different [crosstalk], different day.
Show Me Progress: And, and, and there’s some ironies in the thing. The carry conceal, uh, initiative was in ninety-nine, am I right about that. Do I remember that? [voice: “Ninety-eight.”] Ninety-eight. Ninety-eight. ‘Cause I remember being in Jefferson City and, and [Senator] Harold Caskey [voice: “Yep.”] , uh, with, with that. Uh, what I remember about that was that the NRA started throwing huge amounts of money in that election. And what they did was, that people started to wake up about what was going on. And what actually happened is it boosted voter turnout. And I think the irony is, the way I looked at it, is if they would have kept quiet it would have passed. And, and they spent millions and people started going, wait a minute, we don’t want that. And, and what happened was it, it went down to defeat. So there, uh, sometimes the Missouri voters are…
Voice: But just for, just for a little bit of clarification, the conceal carry was not an, an initiative. The citizens didn’t put it on the ballot. [crosstalk] The legislature did. It’s a different term [inaudible].
Show Me Progress: Right. I understand that. [crosstalk] But, it was, it was a ballot [voice: “Right.”] issue. Right.
Voice: But that’s something that we do point at because the voters made it very clear how they felt about conceal carry [voce: “Right.”] and the legislature still went against them. So there are examples of even, not the, necessarily, or overturning initiatives that citizens put on the ballot, but there are a lot of examples like that [crosstalk] where the citizens have voted on and then they just say I don’t, still don’t care about what you say.
Show Me Progress: Things which are already [crosstalk] voted, decided on. [crosstalk] Yeah.
Former Lieutenant Governor Joe Maxwell (D): In two thousand eight we passed Prop C for the [inaudible] requirement. I worked on that for renewable energy standards. We worked then, after that passed, almost two years getting rules adopted. And finally get the rules and then the legislature guts the whole thing this year in about thirty minutes. And I went around, we had four public deals, you know, trying to explain to all our supporters, you know, yeah, we worked for three years, raised all this money, God love ya for knockin’ on doors and getting signatures, and overwhelming number of people just like [inaudible], you know, they just said, it does no good. You know, I mean, they are just devastated that they, they got engaged and excited in the process. And, yeah, we turned, you know, the legislature, voters just turn off. It, it just, it’s terrible that, uh, they just totally disrespect it.
Show Me Progress: And, and some of this is, you know, the people that get involved in those kind of things, is we see, is they’re, you know, they’re activists, the core, they believe , you know, the core activists, they believe in something and want to get something done, they want to solve a problem, they want to do the right thing. And it takes the wind out of their sails, uh, but sometimes it’s like, you know, how do we, the people that reverse that in the General Assembly, how do we hold them accountable? You know, get, channel people
, and say, well, your state representative in your district, your district voted overwhelmingly to support this thing and, and your state representative voted to overturn it. And there’s a disconnect. [voice: “Yes, sir.”] And, you know, the, the other thing is, how do you inform people that, you’ve, you know, you put your heart and soul in this, your people in this district wanted this overwhelmingly, and there are districts in this state that are that way. [voice: “That’s correct.”] In, in several of these. And, and yet they keep reelecting these same people to the General Assembly. And there’s a disconnect.
Joe Trippi: But see, I think, you know, I think part of this is, uh, I think if you had a real, uh, protection of participatory Democracy in terms of when people do this you start to have those people stay in place. I mean, other words, once you, you know, you get something on the ballot and you pass it and now it takes seventy-five percent, you know, and they, and they have that success. And, and they, you know, it, you know, I think it’s tough, when the legislature, the legislature at seventy-five percent throws it out that organiz, that group of people stay, gets I think sort of, it, it makes it easier to connect that they just, I mean, they really just undid for x interest group what we all just did. And that organization can stay on the ground, actually start to impact some of the elect, you know, some of the, the candidate elections that are going on either way. Um, uh, so, you know, in the end, look, there’s, there’s gonna be, there’re, there’re enough flaws in Jeff City or in this process, that process, in the end I, I think the more we’re involved, the more people are involved, I’ll take whatever flaws come out of that. I mean, it, they’re gonna be some [crosstalk], um, but…
Show Me Progress:There, there will always, somebody will always find a way to exploit something.
Joe Trippi: Yeah. And [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: If you’re, if you’re doing it with, uh, um, good, good will and good intention, you know, it, it tends to be okay.
Joe Trippi: Well, you know, I put it this way, if you’re an interest group, uh, you’re an interest group and, you know, is it, you know, which would you rather have the interest group have to try to do, persuade half of a small group in Jeff City behind closed doors with a check book, uh, about your view, uh, or a majority of people who turn out, Missourians who turn out in [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: Decide, who, who is gonna show up on election day.
Joe Trippi: …gonna show up on election day. You have to convince them of your point of view. You may have to spend a lot of money to do that and you may even win it doing it. I’m not, but, which would we actually rather have them have to do? I mean, assuming something, they’re gonna do something untoward, it’s gonna hurt working people or, [voice: “Yeah.”] right? Which, they, they’re gonna have [crosstalk] to fool…
Show Me Progress: Which is about everything today.
Joe Trippi: No, no, but they’re gonna have to fool half of the state into doing it. [crosstalk] Um, versus…
Show Me Progress: Yeah, you might as well, you might as well make them fool half the state.
Joe Trippi: Yeah, or, or we can let ’em fool, or, not fool, knowingly [laugh], you know, uh, uh, work Jeff City to get, to get half the vote there and, uh, you know, you know, and, which is that, which makes sense to the average person? Well, I mean, I, I think it’s pretty clear. I trust, I’d rather have them have to fool all of us than, uh, than, than working [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: Or, or have to do it openly.
Joe Trippi: Yeah, right, right, exactly. Have to have the spot has to be on your efforts, we have to all see it, and we all have to nod our heads or go, what are they talking about, you know. [crosstalk]
Show Me Progress: As opposed to getting some, something coming through which nobody’s paying attention to crosstalk] and…
Joe Trippi: Right.
Show Me Progress: The puppy mills, the puppy mill vote the last election [inaudible] we overwhelmingly voted to do away with puppy mills and the legislature undid it in five minutes.
Joe Trippi: That’s what I’m saying, I mean, what, what signal does that send to anybody about [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: …[inaudible] [crosstalk] discouraging people in this state who [inaudible] participate.
Joe Trippi: …and they, but, who did they do that for? ‘Cause they didn’t do it for [voice: “Uh, uh.”] the, yeah, they didn’t do it for any voters out there. They did it for, for the, uh, puppy mill folks, you know, so, you know, an, an interest group. They probably, you know, you go back and look at who gave [inaudible] but, you know, that’s. And, by the way, even if that isn’t what happened the problem is the poison that that creates among the electorate [crosstalk] of the people who believe and go, that’s what happened, we all know that’s what happened, and that’s how Jeff City works. In other words it starts to poison the entire trust in the system. Um, and that’s why I just don’t think, look, you know, let’s, you know, let’s make it really, if you guys are gonna do this it’s gotta be seventy-five, you gotta have rural, urban, you know, it’s gotta be like, it can’t be, in, you know, in. And look, if they’re gonna pay to, to throw out what we did let’s make them pay off seventy-five percent of the legislature not just, not just [laughter] sixty percent.
Voice: [inaudible] one more question. [inaudible] time for one more question then we gotta go.
Show Me Progress: Um, if, um, if this passes, um, do you think it’ll cause, um, an increase in kind of initiative petitions in, in this state? Where the idea where, you know, sort of, people are going, uh, the incentive will be like, we have this thing, there’s a problem, we want to address it, and we know that if we put the effort into it we’re, we’re not gonna be subject to the whims of the, the General Assembly as in the puppy mill, you know, bill [crosstalk] which was, you know, that turned around just like that.
Joe Trippi: Yeah, I think [crosstalk] , yeah, I mean, I put it this way, I think people realize that [inaudible] will believe they, uh, will know they have a voice again. Um, right now if you look at the, some of the items we’ve talked, uh, issues we’ve talked about what they learned is you can, you can believe in something, you can sign it, you can put it on there, you can work, you can door to door, you can give twenty-five dollars and in five minutes the legislature takes it all away. Well, no, this means citizens count. We put something on there and we pass it, it’s gonna stick unless they can get a whole lot, you know, across the board, rural, urban, across ideological, um, members who would never vote together on something, uh, vote because this, there was a legitimate mistake or something that wasn’t, wasn’t right. I think, hey, you know, it means we have a voice again. And, um, all you gotta do, look, I believe that anybody who looks at our country over its long illustrious history and Missouri’s history who doesn’t think that there has been a slow steady erosion of people’s voices, I mean the average person’s voice, in our government and the way we do things today, um, and this is just another, overturning what we put on the ballot, is just another step in silencing our, you know, what, our voice about what we want. And this is, you know, your vote counts. It’s gonna say to people your vote matters. What you do matters. And if you believe something and you believe strongly enough that you actually put some elbow grease and some thought and some votes and [inaudible], you know, it can count. Um, what they know right now is it doesn’t. I mean, that’s what the legislature’s been saying. We’re smarter than you or we know better than you or, or we’ve got, or we’ve got really important friends who think you’re wrong and, uh, y
ou can’t hurt our really important friends who think you’re wrong ’cause we’re gonna do right by them instead of doing right by you. And everything is, you know, it, that is a poisonous, uh, thing that breaks down trust between the people and its legislature and its government. And that’s what we’re seeing all, in a weird way, in a lot of ways that’s the kind of stuff that, that helped create the tea party, frankly. Um, they, I mean, that’s what get across all ideological lines here. No, but I’m saying that’s what [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: And, and that and several million dollars from [with another voice] the Koch brothers. Yeah. [laughter]
Joe Trippi: Yeah, yeah, but , you know, what I’m trying to say is, no, but I’m talking about the, the [crosstalk] anger.
Show Me Progress: The anger. [voice: “Yeah.”]
Joe Trippi: And the person who’s, who’s actually sprung up and joined and goes to these, you know, goes to these things. It’s because they’ve lost, it’s, it’s, it, it’s this kind of slow erosion of trust between [crosstalk] them…
Show Me Progress: Right. But we see this thing, there’s this kind of disconnect in that, that everybody loves, everybody hates the General Assembly but they love their representative, you know, and [crosstalk]…
Joe Trippi: That’s changing. For the first time, they have a poll, uh, yesterday or the day before fifty-four percent of the American people would vote against every member of Congress including their own. [voice: “Yeah.”] So, that, that’s starting, that’s what I’m trying to say, we’re seeing this really kind of, I don’t think a very unhealthy disconnect between, uh, uh, I mean, I guess it’s healthy that everybody’s finally that mad and, and wants actually throw their guy, you know, actually looking at their guy, you know, through, through, uh, not rose colored lenses. But I also think it’s, there’s a, uh, a real, uh, I, you know, it’s what, there’s a real, uh, change, sea change in terms of, you know, literally breaking down the level of trust between people and their government which I don’t think is healthy long term unless we do, start doing things to restore it. And that’s [crosstalk] our responsibility as much as. [crosstalk] Yeah., right, yeah.
Show Me Progress: And, and that, this started, [crosstalk] that started a long time ago with, you know, gov, government is the problem.
Voice: I’m sorry, we’ve got to go guys. Sorry about that.
Show Me Progress: Thank you very much.
Joe Trippi: Good talking to you guys….