Friday, February 4, 2011

Is This Why People Voted Republican?

I’d hoped to post more this week, but after my week without Internet, I’ve had to deal with Icepocalypse 2011. I’m still trying to dig out (both literally and metaphorically and both at home and at the office). Thus, this post will be shorter on detail and citation than is my norm.

Anyway, a few weeks before the November 2010 elections, I wrote a series of posts (“Do We Really Want the Insane Right to Gain Control?” and “Do We Really Want the Insane Right to Gain Control? (update)”) in which I briefly examined some of the Republican candidates for office. Well, thankfully, some of the crazier candidates were defeated (Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, for example), but many more were elected. So now that the election is over, let’s take a brief look at some of the legislation being proposed, both in Congress and across the country. And for those of you who voted for Republicans in November, ask yourself these two questions: 1) Was this kind of legislation the reason that you voted for a Republican and 2) how many jobs will this kind of legislation create?

I think my “favorite” (heavy dose of sarcasm…) bill so far (which was thankfully dropped earlier this week) was the effort to redefine “rape”. For those who haven’t followed this story, it is truly mind-numbing. At present, the law does not allow Federal funds to be used for an abortion (e.g., funds from Medicaid); however, there are exceptions in the law for the protection of the life of the mother, rape, and incest. Well, Congressional Republicans (and a handful of Democrats) decided that they didn’t much care for these exceptions because, you know, that might allow for a few more abortions. So they sought to limit the rape exception to cases of “forcible rape” (which was not defined). In other words, Federal funds could not be used for an abortion in a case of statutory rape. Just think about it: A 24 year old teacher has sex with a 14 year old student or a pair of 13 year old kids "experiment". Whoops, not a “forcible rape” (even if state statutes call it rape). Or a sorority girl gets really drunk or us given a date rape drug and "consents" to sex (or is unconscious). Tough luck. And how about sex with a mentally disabled girl who can’t actually give consent? The bill would have also excluded incest if both people are over 21. How about that mentally disabled girl who was “raped” (but not forcibly) by her father or brother? Nope, no abortion funding allowed. I understand that some people oppose abortion, but how many opponents of abortion really want to stop abortions in those sorts of situations? Is this why people voted Republican?

Not to be outdone on the issue of rape, a Georgia legislator (ordinarily, I’d include links, but as I mentioned in the intro, time is short…) has introduced legislation to prohibit rape victims from being called “victims” until the accused rapist is convicted. Until then, the victim is merely an “accuser”. Note that the legislation would not require the same terminology in the case of a murder victim or the victim of a mugging or burglary or any other crime. Nope. Just rape victims — oops, sorry, accusers —would be singled out. Is this why people voted Republican?

Here in Indiana, Republicans want doctors to tell a woman that a fetus might feel pain — even though science doesn’t support that. And Republicans want to be sure that Planned Parenthood doesn’t get any state funding (forgetting, of course, that Planned Parenthood provides many services other than abortion, including birth control). Indiana Republicans also want to prohibit insurance policies from covering “elective” abortions without a separate rider (and who thinks to acquire a separate rider for an abortion, especially if the abortion is necessitated by rape). Indiana Republicans have also sought, once again, to define human life as beginning at conception (see my post “Keep Your Religious Doctrine Out of My State's Laws” from January 2008). And Indiana Republicans have sought to ban all abortions in Indiana unless a doctor certifies that the abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life. Apparently, one of the sponsors of the bill wants this statute to be the test case to take to the Supreme Court of the United States to challenge Roe v. Wade. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

In Congress, Republicans made a big show of trying to vote to repeal health care reform. Note that they voted on the idea of repealing reform before even presenting their own plan to replace the health care law if they could manage to get it repealed. And in states all across the country, Republicans are introducing legislation that would allow their state to “opt out” of the health care reform passed by Congress. Forgot for a moment the Constitutional problems with allowing states to opt-out of Federal laws. Instead, think about what opting out would mean for citizens of a state that opts out (or of the country as a whole if Republicans were successful in efforts to repeal the law without having a plan to replace it). OK, perhaps that would mean that citizens wouldn’t be subject to the mandate to buy insurance. But it would also mean that insurance companies could drop them if they became sick, could refuse coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions, could drop kids from parents’ plans, could impose lifetime limits, and the list goes on. Note that so far as I’ve been able to discern, none of these opt-out proposals include legislation to extend rights to citizens in the states; rather, they only seek to remove the “burden” of the Federal health care reform legislation. Is this why people voted Republican?

Similarly, Republicans are also introducing legislation in some states to allow the state to “veto” Federal legislation that the state doesn’t like. Apparently, these legislators are unfamiliar with both that little spat often referred to as the Civil War and the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Is this why people voted Republican?

Many states are also wasting time worrying about the imposition of Sharia law and passing laws to prevent courts from considering Sharia or foreign laws. (I plan to write more about this later…) It is worth noting, however, that most states have laws specifically incorporating foreign law (the English common law). Moreover, I suspect that the Republicans pushing these sorts of bills have no understanding that following Sharia for a Muslim is not much different than keeping Kosher for a Jew or following the rules set forth in the Bible for a Christian. I guess if we can’t look to foreign laws, then the Ten Commandments will certainly be out. But I digress… And again, I ask, is this why people voted Republican?

Guns are also a favored subject these days. Across the country, Republicans have introduced legislation to loosen gun control regulations. After all, the shooting in Tucson certainly showed that the availability of high capacity magazines and the ability of people who might be mentally unstable to get weapons isn’t strict enough (another dose of sarcasm…). Several states are looking to adopt new provisions regarding carrying concealed weapons, including on college campuses (even in classrooms). Here in Indiana, Republicans have proposed legislation to prevent an employer from asking an employee or prospective employee about gun ownership and to allow a person to carry a licensed weapon onto school property so long as the person isn’t a student. (How comfortable would you be knowing that a parent visiting your kids school might have a concealed gun?) And I can’t help but include the digest of Indiana Senate Bill 506 (emphasis added):

Allows a person to carry a handgun on or about the person's body without being licensed to carry a handgun if: (1) the person is in or on property, or in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by the person; (2) the person is lawfully present in or on private property, or in a vehicle, that is owned, leased, rented, or otherwise legally controlled by another person; (3) the person is carrying the handgun at a shooting range, while attending a firearms instructional course, or while engaged in a legal hunting activity; or (4) the handgun is unloaded and securely wrapped.

Read the introduction and clause (2) again and then tell me where the person isn’t allowed to have an unlicensed gun. As I read that digest, a person could have an unlicensed handgun on my property and there would be nothing that I could do about it (other than, I suppose, kick them off my property if I found out). But remember that last year Indiana adopted a law that prohibited employers from declaring their property “gun free” zones. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

And before we leave the subject of guns, it is worth noting the novel idea that has been proposed by Republicans in South Dakota. In an effort to try to show that the Founding Fathers would not have approved of the mandate provision of the health care reform legislation and that the mandate is unconstitutional, South Dakota Republicans have introduced a bill to require all residents of South Dakota to purchase a firearm. Do we really think that encouraging people (let alone requiring people) to have weapons is a good idea? But the funny part of this is that rather than demonstrate how the health care mandate may be unconstitutional, South Dakota Republicans may, in fact, have done just the opposite. You see, in response to this bill, some folks did a little bit of historical research (something that Republicans seem to have a wee bit o’ difficulty with) and learned that — are you ready for this? — while George Washington was President, Congress enacted a law requiring that all citizens own a firearm! Yes, our first President, Father of the Nation, signed into a law a mandate requiring citizens to purchase something! (And don’t forget during Adams’ presidency [I think; maybe it was Jefferson?], Congress enacted a law mandating the 18th Century equivalent of health insurance for seamen.) Hmm. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

In state after state, Republicans are proposing legislation like that adopted in Arizona, to enact racial profiling into their laws in the hopes of stopping illegal immigration. Here in Indiana, Republican legislators want to prevent the State of Indiana from printing documents in any language other than English because, you know, doing so might actually help someone who doesn’t look and talk like the rest of us. Is this why people voted for Republicans?

In quite a few states, Republican legislators have introduced “birther” legislation that would require Presidential candidates to prove that they are natural born citizens. Gee. I wonder why Republicans feel this legislation is necessary? Is this why people voted for Republicans?

Republicans have introduced legislation to protect teachers who want to teach “alternative science” — you know, like creationism, that global warming is a myth, vaccines cause autism, the planets and sun orbit the Earth, the Earth is flat, Jesus was … OK, fine. I won’t go there. But is this why people voted for Republicans?

In Congress, newly elected Senator Rand Paul has proposed eliminating (or nearly so) the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and numerous other departments and programs. And remember, he’s a doctor! He also wants to eliminate all foreign aid, including all foreign aid to Israel (he calls it “welfare”). Is this why people voted for Republicans?

And finally, in state after state, Republicans are trying to pass laws or even amend state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Is this why people voted for Republicans.

It was my understanding that Republicans were concerned with the economy and job growth. It was my understanding that the Tea Party was concerned with the so-called erosion of individual liberty. Yet across the nation, Republican legislators are introducing legislation to tackle social issues while ignoring the economy, often at the expense of individual liberty. Or, said another way, individual liberty is a good thing, but only if it’s the “right kind” of individual liberty; otherwise, Republicans want to ban it. Finally, consider whether these bills will create jobs or help the economy.

Is this why people voted for Republicans?

If not, let your Republican legislator know that these kinds of bills are not why they were elected. Let them know why they were elected. And remind them that another election is coming…

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At Friday, February 04, 2011 4:21:00 PM , Anonymous Jeremy Cohen said...

Once again Michael, you have brought a rational voice to what seems to be slipping under the radar. I appreciate your thoughts and engaging writing on these topics. May your words reach those that most need to read them. On a side note, I'd like to personally invite all those people that get or will eventually get Medicare/Medicaid to "opt out" BEFORE they support a candidate that is opposed to national health care. I bet this health care issue would look different if the retirees in this country would be searching for a private insurer who could deny them coverage.

At Saturday, February 05, 2011 1:51:00 AM , Blogger Charles said...

Michael, I know your questions were rhetorical, but unfortunately, the answer in many cases is "Yes. These things are EXACTLY why a lot of people voted Republican."

At Saturday, February 05, 2011 8:48:00 AM , Blogger MSWallack said...


Thanks for the kind words. I continue to believe that one of the major problems that we have is people voting against their own self-interest because they either being intentionally misled (or are too dumb or lazy to think through the issues) or are caught up in wedge issues that don't really have an impact on their day-to-day lives.


I actually disagree. I think that a lot of people voted Republican because of the economy and the "promise" of Republicans to focus on the economy. Sure some voted for Republicans because of abortion or worry about death panels, but I don't think that the huge swing in the House (or state houses across the country) was motivated largely by social issues.

Governing is hard and many Republicans are now learning that it is much easier to tackle soundbite-sized social issues than to address much more complicated issues (health care and the economy).


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