Day By Day

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The People Speak -- France says "No" to the EU Constitution

AP Reports:

PARIS - French voters rejected the European Union's first constitution Sunday, President Jacques Chirac said — a stinging repudiation of his leadership and the ambitious, decades-long effort to further unite the continent.

Chirac, who urged voters to approve the charter, announced the result in a short televised address. He said the process of ratifying the treaty would continue in other EU countries. "France has expressed itself democratically," Chirac said. "It is your sovereign decision, and I take note."

Hell, it wasn't even close. "Non" won in a landslide.
Earlier, the Interior Ministry said that with about 83 percent of the votes counted, the referendum was rejected by 57.26 percent of voters. It was supported by 42.74 percent.

Read about it here.

It has been fun over the past few days, as it became ever more clear that the French public was about to reject the EU Constitution, watching the Euro-elites twisting and turning, trying to cone to terms with rejection. Some despair, seeing this as the death of their dreams of a comprehensive European state. But, as Mark Steyn notes in a brilliant collumn, these anti-democrats are not about to take the vote of the people as final.

He writes:

[A] couple of days before the first referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, the "president" of the European Union, let French and Dutch voters know how much he values their opinion: "If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again," "President" Juncker told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

Got that? You have the right to vote, but only if you give the answer your rulers want you to give. But don't worry, if you don't, we'll treat you like a particularly backward nursery school and keep asking the question until you get the answer right. Even America's bossiest nanny-state Democrats don't usually express their contempt for the will of the people quite so crudely.

Read him here.

Notice that Chirac's statement did not promise to take rejection by the French public as final. He simply promised to "take note" of their opinion as he crafts future strategies.

Some have even perversely suggested that a referendum of the public is "undemocratic." Witness this incredible argument from Paul Virilio, writing in Sign and Sight. He writes:
Under the appearance of democratic openness, the French referendum on the European constitution increasingly appears as a denial of democracy. It is taking the guise of a cloaked plebiscite by a president who since April 21, 2002 has no longer held sway with the French voters, and that despite the incontestable success of his foreign policy at the moment of the refusal of the Iraq War....

[T]he practice of holding a referendum on such a subject is suicidal. It is an electoral absurdity that puts in question the political intelligence not only of the head of state, but also of his immediate entourage and communication advisers.

How can one vote "in full knowledge of the facts" on a text of some 500 pages, with over 400 articles? Who is the butt of jokes when the postal service has to deliver over 40 million copies of the European constitution to electors at their homes, and when ten or more books that set out the implications of the constitution in either positive or negative terms have become best-sellers?

So let me get this straight! Voting is a denial of democracy because the common folk are too dumb to understand what their government wants of them and the government is too incompetent to give them clear orders. The common folk have been fed too much information for their tiny brains to process, and therefore their participation in a referendum is a "denial of democracy."

What unadulterated crap!

Arguments like this have been used for centuries to disenfranchise groups of voters. They, not the referendum, are the real "denial of democracy."

Read the whole disgusting thing here.

One of the most important things the American founders did was to bypass the local elites in the various sovereign states and to take their case directly to the people. The American Constitution, after all, begins with the words "we the people." And they meant it.

Instead of simply asking the state legislatures to ratify their proposed constitution in 1787, they arranged for Congress to call for constitutional conventions in all the states where specially elected representatives would debate ratification. The result was significant modification of the original document, enshrined in the "Bill of Rights," and a recognition by the American public that they, not their leaders, had played the crucial part in shaping their government. James Madison, heralded as the primary author of the Constitution [and of the "Bill of Rights"], took full notice of it. He always maintained that the real meaning of the American Constitution was to be found, not in the deliberation of 55 men in Philadelphia, but in the wide-ranging ratification debates that took place in the state constitutional conventions.

Europe's elites should take warning from the French vote and inspiration from the American example. There is a real disconnect between the governors and the governed, and to stubbornly continue down the current road is to risk disaster. The precedent of the American founders should be reconsidered. A successful and legitimate constitution must be founded on the consent of the governed.

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