In the face of the ironclad grip that Republicans have enjoyed over a vast swath of state legislatures ever since the massive wave election that swept so many hardliners into power in 2010, progressives have fought back at the ballot box—with tremendous success. In the many states where the GOP has refused to take action, activists have used ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, secure abortion rights, protect the right to vote, curb gerrymandering, legalize marijuana, promote gun safety, and more.
How have Republicans reacted to this? By trying to make it harder to pass initiatives in the first place.
In a healthy democracy, a party that sees its opponents pass a string of popular measures despite lockstep opposition would reconsider its priorities. Yet Republican lawmakers in nearly every red and purple state that allows initiatives have tried to make the process far more restrictive—to the point where it becomes effectively impossible to use initiatives to pass progressive policies at all.
These Republican attacks on ballot initiatives are not an isolated occurrence, nor are they mere philosophical disagreements with the notion of direct democracy, since many of these restrictions asymmetrically burden progressives but not conservatives. Instead, they have worked in tandem with the GOP's national assault on representative democracy and the right to vote, collectively forming an effort to cement conservatives in power and shut progressives out across the country using every means available, no matter their levels of popular support.