David Broder inscribed my copy of his book on the initiative process, Democracy Derailed, to someone “who makes the system work.” The thing is, Broder did not like the system that he occasionally talked to me about — the initiative process. Broder, the national political writer for the Washington Post and dean of the Washington press corps, passed away at age 81 yesterday.

Broder was fascinated with the initiative process enough to write his book about it, which focused greatly on California. He was not a fan of the process. He chose to report the San Francisco Chronicle’s headline on the 20th anniversary of Proposition 13: DEMOCRACY GONE AWRY, instead of the Los Angeles Times’ 20th anniversary editorial comment: “Proposition 13 is 20 years old and it’s time to proclaim the tax-cutting measure a stunning success.”

He followed up a number of times with me listening to arguments about the process. One time sitting down with Los Angeles businessman and civic activist, David Abel and I, in Abel’s office after Abel chaired and I served on a state commission on the initiative process. But hearing the debate, he never wavered in his opposition to the initiative.

Broder attacked the initiative process for lacking deliberation. He said he would choose James Madison’s model of government with its checks and balances over the up-and-down vote of democratic decision-making at the ballot. He did not accept my argument that the initiative is another piece of the check and balance system for ordinary citizens.

Yet, he recognized the popularity of the initiative and the flaws in many elected leaders to convince the voters that they were serving them. He argued, “If the public believes it knows best what is right for the country and distrusts those elected to office, then the case for representative government comes down to proving that the process of legislation itself—debate, deliberation, amendment, compromise … somehow adds value to the ultimate decision.”

When I was interviewed for a Fellows position at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics on the initiative process, I informed Broder that if I got the post I would use his book as a prime text for the class and would invite him to speak. Broder had been one of the original Fellows at the Institute.

Ultimately, I did not get the position. I called Broder in Washington to tell him and his one-word reaction was, “Damn!” That pretty much was the emotional reaction I had yesterday when I learned he had passed away.