Last week, Regnat Populus, the popular and sweeping reform of government and ethics in Arkansas, failed to make the required signatures to make it on the ballot. In some ways, it’s not surprising. It was an uphill climb with a late start. But the folks that organized and canvassed for this shouldn’t give up hope. Movements often take time and this one has much more potential to take off than many others. What started with this canvassing effort should be the beginning, not the end. Here’s the road ahead as I see it-
First things first, a ton of state legislative candidates from Zac White to Diana Gonzales Worthen came out for this measure. There are now a ton of volunteers out there who supported this measure who can now come together to help those candidates knock on doors and make phone calls. Want to change the way Arkansas works? Elect pro-ethics reform candidates. Then have them introduce it into the legislature. You can’t change politics on the outside-you have to engage in the system, and that means electing people.
Following that, the goal should be to bring it up in the legislature. Sure, there will be people who bitch and moan about it. Sure it might not pass. Okay, great. Get some tough legislators who support this to see it through as far as they can carry it and make sure that the folks opposed to it have to vote either for or against it. It’s just that simple. If it fails, the people see who’s working against them. Then you proceed to step three if you have to.
Assuming the reforms fail in the legislature in 2013, you have your folks ready to go from day one after the vote. You get the language written up and run with it. Start collecting signatures as soon as possible. Then make sure that it gets on the ballot in 2014 where it will easily succeed.
But the effort to change state government shouldn’t stop with getting the three reforms proposed this year-the ban on gift from lobbyists, the ban on direct corporate and union contributions, and the increased cooling off period. There are a host of things that need to be changed in state government, ranging from reform of the state commissions to real campaign finance reform. A victory for reform shouldn’t be an end. It should be the beginning of sweeping change in Arkansas. That can still happen, and there’s no reason for the people who came together around this effort to give up on it. Instead, they should be working for the long run.