Wednesday, June 01, 2005

You Say You Want a Referendum... 

Sunday night in Paris was strangely empty. The French vote to accept or reject the EU Constitution was being tallied & a good bit of the city stayed indoors to watch the results. The general(ized)thrust of the Non vote was motored by the fear of being Briticized with privatization schemes, the Turkey question & the protest vote, while the Oui camp voted for a stake in tomorrow's continental superpower.

The French concerns themselves weren't particularly odd. But the perceived alliances the vote forged seemed all but impossible coming from an America where the big "yes" or "no" questions fall almost completely into Republican or Democrat causes. It was exciting to watch Paris '68 vet Daniel Cohn-Bendit join flagging conservative Jacques Chirac in an effort to peruade France to vote Oui. Likewise, witnessing the fascist National Front & the further left labor advocates campaign against the EU Constitution acceptance seemed (at least on surface)an unlikely coalition.

The 2004 USA presidential election left me with a pretty negative feeling about referendum voting, in all its irrational Rovian ugliness that painted states red with anti-gay hysteria. But during the days leading up to the French referendum, citizens in the street & the media spoke of almost nothing but the coming vote, airing debate & opinion from practically every political perspective. According to one poll, more than 80% of French voters had read the EU Constitution in its entirety. I'd guess this is a higher percentage than the number of U.S. Congressmen who've read the American Constitution from start to finish. Sometimes a referendum make sense.

- Frank Sherlock

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