Dan Walters, George Skelton, and Joel Fox say the Democrats don’t believe in democracy.

Because once a majority of the electorate—which might be a tiny minority of the actual population, but who cares?–vote on something on one day, they’ve decided it for all time. That’s the Walters-Skelton-Fox logic, at least. In democracy, apparently, you shouldn’t change your mind.

And no elected official should go against the vote of the people on an issue. Once people have decided one issue on one day, the debate is over. Any politician who might, you know, follow their conscience is anti-democratic.

That’s ludicrous. But that’s what three of our state’s most distinguished columnists are saying.

Skelton recently went after Gov. Gavin Newsom “for kissing off the voters on capital punishment.” Voters in this decade twice declined, narrowly to eliminate the penalty, and very narrowly voted to make it a little easier to carry out. That supposedly overwhelming verdict, Skelton suggests, must stand presumably for as long as Newsom is in office. And his own views and judgment as an elected governor should stand aside in the face of that close vote by a small minority of California voters.

Newsom, Skelton says, is also “two-faced” and “dismissive of the voters’ desires” because he ignored “promises made to voters when they supported a gas tax and vehicle increase.” That promise is that localities would get gas tax moneys for certain projects.

What was left out by Skelton is context. Newsom is responding to public concern and a huge problem—housing—by trying to find leverage to force cities to allow the building of more of it. He chose to threaten to take away those transportation dollars if cities don’t fall in line on housing. That sounds like democratic politics to me, but not to Skelton. The columnist’s view: those gas tax dollars were approved by voters, so that’s all that matters—even if there’s a bigger problem the governor is trying to address.

Dan Walters echoed Skelton in citing “an increasing willingness by the dominant Democrats to thumb their noses at voters by pursuing policies that contradict what the voters decreed.”

He also cited the death penalty moratorium. And then Walters suggested Democrats were violating the wishes of the voters by pursuing legislation to cap annual rent increases in certain jurisdictions, even though voters turned down a ballot initiative last fall to overturn rent control ordinances.

Then, both Walters and Joel Fox, the latter writing in this space, went even further, suggesting our very democracy is at stake. Here is Fox: “If a single individual who temporarily holds the reins of power, even in the highly controversial and oft debated issue of the death penalty, can override that basic concept of government by the people then a severe crack appears in the foundation of the democracy.”

Walters, in even higher dungeon, writes that this is Putin-style stuff: “If governors and legislators can simply ignore the will of voters, or block them from making decisions politicians don’t like, then California becomes more autocratic and less small-d democratic… That’s the sort of thing that Third World dictators, such as Venezuela’s current despot, do.”

Good grief.

I’m no fan of rent control, and voted against the initiative, which had other problems. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want the legislature to think about ways to protect tenants and stabilize housing markets. The Democrats pursuing this were voted into office in the same election that rent control lost. I personally voted against rent control and for a Democrat who might pursue rental protection. Remind me: why does the vote against one ballot initiative, on a long list of initiatives, mean more than a vote for your own legislator?

I’m not sure either vote matters a whole lot—both are low-information decisions.  They are worthy of some respect, for what they were, one decision each, on one day. Ask the British right now if one vote two years ago should determine a polity’s fate for all times.

Here’s the essential point Walters and Skelton and Fox are missing: Democracy isn’t a series of judgments by voters that must be carried out by their representatives for a long time after that. Democracy is a conversation between the people and their representatives that has no fixed judgments. It is a conversation that never ends.