A Quick Correction Regarding Our System

In an interview with a radio host this morning, Gov. Phil Bryant responded to a question about legislation to change the state flag by saying that the issue ought to be put before the people because we live in a “direct democracy.”

Actually, we don’t.

We live in a representative democracy. That was the intent of the framers from the get go, as we will see when we turn to Federalist Paper #10 next month.

Gov. Bryant’s comments result from his broader irritation with the media. He also said in the interview that he couldn’t talk about anything that’s doing well in Mississippi without being asked questions about “flags and statues,” which he found “frustrating” because such questions make it harder to put the state in the best possible light.

The interview raised a couple of interesting questions. First, should we trust voters to make the best decisions about sensitive issues? If not, where should we turn? Why would leaders want referendums on such issues? Second, is it the right time for Mississippi to worry about rehabilitating its image, or are there other issues to address?

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22 Responses to A Quick Correction Regarding Our System

  1. Hamilton Wan says:

    The entire purpose of a representative democracy is to allow its representatives to serve as a filter for the ideas of the populace, allowing the good ideas to pass and suppressing the not-so-good ideas. With this in mind, it is not necessarily the best idea to allow the populace to directly vote on sensitive issues. In a large population, views on certain issues tend to be more polarized. Therefore, allowing the entire population to directly vote on such issues would only increase political polarization and tensions. Instead, we should turn to our representatives when it comes to sensitive issues because they were elected for the purpose of serving as experienced politicians who have a rough idea of how to decide upon sensitive issues.

    Political leaders may want to hold referendums to poll how a population feels about a certain issue. The results of these referendums may help political leaders make further and more informed decisions. That being said, for some issues, it may be necessary for the results of a referendum to become law. Some issues are perhaps better resolved by the entire populace than a single representative; the difficult part is defining the issues that are suitable for popular vote. In general, any issue that would not generate vast political tensions and polarization may be suitable for popular vote.

    Even with all of that in mind, it is important to note that Mississippi should not prioritize rehabilitating its image. Mississippi is failing in terms of its education system, its infrastructure, its health, and its economy, among others; on almost all state rankings, Mississippi falls at the worse end of the spectrum. Therefore, even if Mississippi wanted to improve its image, there are more important issue that it needs to take care of first.

  2. Jacob Lee says:

    This issue has been debated for a long time and there are several things that must be considered. One ome hand there’s the fact we live in America and we have the right to the pursuit of happiness, so shouldn’t we be able to vote and approve what makes us happy? On the other hand, things have to be considered such as social acceptions, morality, in-depth thought, and so many other things. So the question is, should everyone be expected to have and use these tools, or should keep this responsibility with those we believe use these tools handily?

  3. Kiera Monroe says:

    Honestly, no one can ever win because there are always nay-sayers. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Yes, we should trust voters because we all have a voice in expressing what we feel is right and what is not; of course, there are some people that do not deserve to vote in the first place or any leader that deserve to lead based off poor voting decisions , but it is fair for everyone to have a say rather our opinion matched with the majority or not.
    Democracy or representative, there are still problems that need to be fixed. Nothing is utopian! Referendums are part of the problem. There are less than a decision of any form of democracy, which kind of defeats the purpose of voting; however, I do know that by actually focusing on issues and genuinely working to solve them, Mississippi’s image can be healed.

    External links:
    http://siteselection.com/cc/mississippi/2017/interview-with-the-governor.cfm
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/world/americas/colombia-brexit-referendum-farc-cameron-santos.html
    http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/2017/07/18/how-data-can-change-mississippis-image/488463001/

  4. Jackie Ward says:

    The public as a whole is generally not well informed enough and too divided to make responsible decisions regarding our laws and the fabric of our society. This is why we have representatives that take certain interests of certain groups and fight for them, having more influence over what the law says about certain issues if more people back a certain sphere of influence. Leaders as a whole need to know what issues affect the most people and through that can help the most people. Mississippi however should be worried about rehabilitating its image but in the right sense. We should be more focused on better education standards rather then some stupid flag.

  5. Liz Huynh says:

    The United States is a democracy; therefore, the majority will decide upon the decision. Since it is a majority decision, we should trust the voters’ decisions on sensitive issues. Referendums are a good way for leaders to obtain views from different perspective and background. Thus, the referendums help leaders make decisions on political issues that would benefit interests of a larger body of citizens. That being said, the focus of Mississippi state should not be about improving our image; it should be about fixing the many problems that Mississippi is currently undergoing. One of the main objectives should be to improve Mississippi education, as education can lead to many advancements. Also, education can create many scholars that can, in turn, make better decisions when it comes to sensitive issues.

  6. Taylor Shamblin says:

    The trust should be in the hands of the voters in a situation like this. The best decision is relative to the ideals and beliefs of the individuals voting, so in our governmental system, the best decision cannot be truly determined. Mississippi is in a time of decline. We are the leading horse in the race for the most obese and most diabetic state in America. Mississippi’s educational system is second to last in the entire nation. We need to put the health and education before the political emotions of the state that do not help change our state’s negative rankings.

  7. Mary stewart says:

    Issues like this one should, mostly, be left to the voters.The current system, while not the best, is the most effective way to ensure that the populace is heard. However in this system, one side tends to have more sway- leaving the minority vote to the side. Thus one could suggest that some higher power have a say in votes/topics such as the Mississippi state flag. Moreover by polling voters through referendums, representatives have a better understanding of what the majority wants.

    The time is now for MS to critique its image by adressing other problems. For example, one problem in Mississippi is obesity and diabetes; if MS were able to correct this problem, then the state would look better. So in fixing other problems MS will be able to correct its image problems.

  8. It is difficult to believe we live in a democracy, let alone a representative democracy. Sometimes, there are twisted politics that will convince us to vote for them because they swear their thoughts and values line up with the American people. Once they are in office, they just throw everything out the window and pursue their own desires. Sometimes, I feel like the American people live in a direct democracy. People represent themselves whereas the politicians have constituents [people] they should be obligated to represent in the most honor manner possible.

  9. Zion Hargro says:

    Let’s face it people, our state has quite the reputation-most notably a bad one. Mississippi has always been labeled for having the worse something. Whether, it be known for having the highest obesity rate in the country, or having the highest poverty rate in the country, Mississippi is notorious for bad things. With our state already being negatively regarded, the confederate flag certainly isn’t helping. Yes, it is apart of history, but it is a piece of history we should not try to hold on to. It represents a part of Mississippi’s negativity we should strive to get rid of. With that being said, to each their own opinion. Someone reading this may have a completely different standpoint about the confederate flag.

    With that being said, our state was probably the most racist state in a South that was FULL of racism! And it does still exist throughout Mississippi; I’ve seen it. Although back then the population was more African American than white, times have changed, the Great Migration occurred, and now we have a state that, according to the 2016 Census, is 59% Caucasian and 41% minority. Even if the voting was left up to the people, minorities will 9 times out of 10 be overlooked in any major decision making, as we always have; and not be stereotypical, there will be a handful of racist white folks, if not half, voting to keep Mississippi’s past alive and keep the flag.

    This is a sensitive matter, and matters like these should not be left up to the people, but to the government of the state because obviously we’re still failing economically because we wont stand together and fight for what is right, and plus they are in there positions for a reason (even if they haven’t done much towards the advancement of the state). Mississippi can’t do that because Tom likes the color green, Anna likes the color pink, Lucy likes the color green, and Eric likes the color yellow. Simply put, we all have very contrasting opinions

  10. Alexz Carpenter says:

    I believe that sensitive issues should be able to be voted on by the people in Mississippi, even though I believe it is a way for the representatives of this state to get out of having to choose sides and making people unhappy. I believe the leaders would want referendums because they do not want to be blamed for the outcome. Whatever region they are over in the state might have a different opinion than what the representative believes which would cause many people to be unhappy with them. If there was a referendum, no one could say anything and would have no choice but to accept the outcome. I believe there are many other issues that are more important than our image. I believe that if we change the flag, it would cause more problems than it is worth. I do not think it would change the opinion of what other states think about us, and it would cause many disagreements within the state causing tensions to rise.

  11. Helen Peng says:

    Mississippi is stereotypically known as the most “backwards” state. And ranked as one of the states with the most obesity, worst education, and highest teen pregnancy, this conception, statistically, is not wrong. While the rest of the nation has a negative perspective of MS, our ‘confederate’ state flag is certainly not helping that fact. Yes. The confederate flag is an important part of MS and American history but it represents a part of history that supported racism, violence, and inequality- the vary things that America should frown upon. These downfalls of MS history should not represent MS, much less be proudly flown as a state flag.
    In general, I do think that the state should trust voters to make decisions- especially because they are on such sensitive issues. The larger problem, however, is getting an accurate representation of MS among voters and encouraging more people to vote. While I do strongly disagree with the state flag, when it comes down to it, the flag should represent Mississippi and its people, and this should be determined my votes. Still, MS should worry about its image. This not only relies on state symbols, but the laws and funding that MS passes as a whole that supports its people is a large part of the nation’s perspective of MS. Therefore, while MS does not have to directly target improving it, I believe the internal improvements and problems addressed by the state should in-and-of-itself improve MS’s image.

  12. Kendra Bradley says:

    I think in order to better our state, we have to acknowledge the past. He is right when he tries to better our reputation. Just about anyone asked would agree that Mississippi needs a “make-over”. The problem is that we can’t just ignore that Mississippi was and is one of the most racist states in the nation. We have to acknowledge what has happened and show, in our actions, that we are genuinely sorry. I believe that, when we keep statues of the men that fought for their right to treat African-Americans as property, we are saying that we still celebrate this. Taking down, or at least removing their glorification with some sign stating clearly their atrocities, is a type of peace offering saying that we, as a state, are ready to move past what we have done and want to better our mistakes. Until we step out and show exactly how much we want our past to be cut off from our future, we will always be associated with racism.

  13. Indu Nandula says:

    When one thinks about Mississippi, what do they think of? Some might say farming, or agriculture. But others may go straight for the dirty truths, including slavery, obesity, uneducation, illiteracy, unemployment – the list goes on and on. The same can be said about the flag. Mississippi’s flag is no longer a symbol of a proud state; it is a representation of an era reeking with injustice and disgrace. To answer the question, yes, there are some aspects of our state that can be amended, such as the obesity and illiteracy rates. However, other aspects can not so easily be changed. History has taken its course, mistakes were made, lives were lost. Yes, these events are like curry stains on a white tablecloth for the state of Mississippi. But can the past be changed? No. On a different note, Mississippi is, in a way, trying to diversify its population and better its image. We are no longer the unlawful slaveowners that we once were. Now, our state displays true “Southern hospitality”, in most all of its interactions and behaviors. That said, should the population itself be allowed to choose its own fate? Or should someone else wave their magic wand and decide how we die? Though numerous persons in Mississippi may not be the epitome of being educationally qualified for voting, they should still have a say in what happens to them.

  14. Nique says:

    This shows an example of how people look at Mississippi. No matter the good that it accomplish the negative will always be displayed and thought of. It’s the perfect time to reconstruct Mississippi’s image because honestly the state needs it. When Mississippi is mentioned it shouldn’t be known as its past but as the present and future accomplishments and the progress its made. With the voters being the people I feel that they should be trusted with the issue because by this being their state they should (not saying they will) want a better perspective of their state.

  15. Tija J. says:

    Because of the history of this state, the Governor isn’t allowed to ignore the meaning behind this “flag and statues” no matter how many times he’s asked. He isn’t allowed to ignore both perspectives of the issue going on within this state. I feel like its not in the best interest to worry about an image. For far too long officials of this state has been worried about an image instead of the the serious concerns within this state. I’m not saying that the positive things about MS shouldn’t be noticed. It’s a great that we have something good going for the state (especially since we bare a negative light), however, you can not ignore the problematic issues also going on within this state. Because this is a state that wishes to preserves its “beloved” history, if we trust voters on this decision it will most likely result in keeping the flag and its meaning. The people’s opinion should be considered, but it comes a time to see what do you want your state to represent. All issues within the state should be addressed but it is a certain time frame that the issues should be handled in. This issue isn’t minute but i can name bigger issues.

  16. KC says:

    Firstly, I believe that voters should be able to vote on the sensitive issues. If the sensitive issues are just dictated and we aren’t given a choice on a particular option, it restricts us of our right to vote, and it deprives people of their opinion. Everyone has an opinion, whether you might think that it is wrong or not.
    Secondly, leaders would want a referendum because they would want to eliminate any arguing over the subject at hand. Less arguing usually means less work for them, so if they make the decision, then it eliminates any area for argument.
    Thirdly, I think that it is time for Mississippi to reform its image because now there are more people who feel they can voice their opinion about certain things and their not be consequences. People are able to voice their opinions about the flag and what it represents, without any thought of how other people might feel about it. It is time for Mississippi to do away with this symbol so that people can live without the constant reminder of the meaning behind this flag.

  17. Loveish Sarolia says:

    Mississippi’s flag serves as a portal to the past times where slavery was common and racism was prevalent. The flag of Mississippi contains a symbol of inequality, violence, and discrimination. However, the flag also contains a message that portrays the attempts to amend the inequality, violence, and discrimination that many slaves encountered during the Civil War. Its not up to the voters to directly vote to change or remove the flag of Mississippi, it’s up to the politicians who have been voted in to office by the voters to make the change that their supporters want. The parties that have represented the United States for decades have yet to reach a proper conclusion when it comes to the flag.

  18. Thu-Hash-Slangin-Poodler says:

    I will attempt to lay out my thoughts on the matter in three concise points. Firstly, do I think the flag is “evil”. Well, to be frank, no. That is not to say I am fond of it either, however it is no more evil than our own American flag, or the British Union Jack. Secondly, do I believe the flag belongs on the Mississippi state flag? Certainly not. I feel that the reason liberal politicians are calling for the flag to be taken down is more of a way of straw-manning conservatives, and, while I still believe that Beauregard’s battle flag has it’s place,perhaps at a museum, and should not be stowed away or hidden, it has outlived its place atop the capitol buildings of southern states. Thirdly, do I believe it should be taken down? No. While It does need to be removed, this is not the opportune time. Radical forces on the left have become renown for their protests an general uncordial behavior. If the flag is removed now, then there will be no meaningful way of resisting progressive intransigence. When the Confederate flag comes down, it should mark the reconciliation of both political parties, and they should take the flag down together.

  19. Lane Hughes says:

    At the moment, all MSMS students (and probably staff) live in Mississippi. In saying this, pretty much all of us can agree that we’ve seen people who are so fundamentally attached to their ideals that, if they had the chance, they would go back to slavery or the killing of “savage” Indians, or the shutting out of every single person who doesn’t think the way they do. This way of thinking is detrimental to the diversity of the human species, which could eventually be our downfall. By letting biased personalities vote on matters like this, we could spell out destruction in the end. On another note, the population of Mississippi is still ripe with people who believe that the N-word is something that can and should be used as much as possible. It’s possible that Mississippi has been trying to change, but at the same time, it’s highly unlikely that that will happen anytime soon. Therefore, the state should stop worrying about rehabilitating its image, and focus on other, more fixable issues.

  20. Kaelon McNeece says:

    Regardless of what geographical area is in question, as long as there are people, there will be an abundance of differing opinions. In Mississippi, the majority of political opinion historically leans towards the political right. However, there are hundreds of thousands of people within Mississippi that have plenty of similarities and dissimilarities among their political beliefs. When decisions about sensitive issues are brought to the electorate of Mississippi, the result is most likely going to be that of a right-winged opinion. Regardless of political belief, this method is the most fair in making a decision on difficult issues. Allowing one opinion, say that of a representative or senator, to hold more weight than that of the people could sometimes result in unfair misrepresentation of the parent state. By turning to the people, the consequence of political ignorance is accepted. However if one person is apt to vote purely based off of their own preferred political party rather than their own beliefs, what is stopping them from voting for a representative whose only similarity with them is that political party? Voting for a representative that shares a political party with the voter but none of the political opinions opens the door for political misrepresentation much wider than a referendum would. Some leaders do want referendums on difficult issues because any subsequent result would be one that, although not entirely agreed upon, is what the overall state preferred which is fair and equal to all people involved.

    Mississippi is plagued with much more pressing issues than its image. Among others, Mississippi is the United States’ poorest state, fattest state, second worst state in education, second highest state in teenage pregnancy, and fourth highest state in positive STI tests. All of these issues definitely are image-affecting labels, but these labels are also serious issues within the state that deserve attention. Problems regarding Mississippi’s poverty, health, and education are all issues that deserve attention. While these problems play a big role in determining Mississippi’s image, they go far deeper than affecting just that. These problems affect real people that live in Mississippi, and if Mississippi continues to worry only about its image, the major problems will only get worse. By focusing on these problems rather than problems whose sole detractor from Mississippi is the image of the state (i.e. State Flag), Mississippi can become an all-around better state and maybe happen to improve its image in the process. Issues concerning relations and state image are clearly important and worth the light of day, but what’s the point in improving the public opinion a state if it has fallen into disrepair and can’t be fixed?

  21. Samantha Anderson says:

    I believe that voters should not be completely trusted to make decisions about sensitive issues because of majorities in regions which will cause minorities to be completely overlooked. Instead, I believe that voters should be trusted to decide who is put into office and they should make that decision wisely. Also, there should be representatives from multiple different backgrounds, perspectives, cultures, and belief systems so that a decision is not made fully from one perspective or “party”. Mississippi should not necessarily be worried about image. Instead, Mississippi should be worried about the issues that rightfully alter its image and actually make the state a worse off place to the people to the people who live here. The state shouldn’t be focused on outsiders “opinions”; it should be making changes to real issues and truly care about them, not just for publicity purposes. Therefore, not only will it better our image(which at the end of the day doesn’t really matter), it will actually better our state.

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