Downside of Democracy

Many years ago, during a discussion with a friend whose husband served in the Indiana House, she said something I’ve always remembered: “The problem with representative democracy is that it is representative.”

This session of the Indiana Legislature seems intent on proving the point.

If you’ve been following national news, you may be thinking that those we elected to the General Assembly couldn’t possibly be as crazy as, for example, the South Dakota lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would have made it legal to shoot abortion doctors (he withdrew it in the wake of the publicity), or the Arizona legislator who responded to the horrific shootings in Tucson by sponsoring a bill to allow concealed guns to be carried anywhere, or the Wisconsin Governor who is threatening to call out the National Guard if public workers protest his efforts to strip them of bargaining rights they’ve had since the 1950s.

But you’d be wrong.

Think an anti-bullying bill should be a slam-dunk? Think again. The Senate Committee killed it on a 3-5 vote. Opponents expressed an uncharacteristic concern for the First Amendment rights of schoolchildren…especially their right to express anti-gay sentiments.

Speaking of child safety, surely a bill to require all child care providers to meet health and safety requirements—staff criminal history checks, fire safety, drug testing and the like—should be a no-brainer? Wrong! Advance America’s Eric Miller brought in God’s folks to testify that the bill gave government “too much authority over Church ministries,” and the bill died without a committee vote.

Wisconsin isn’t the only state trying to strip public employees of bargaining rights—here in Indiana, a bill to abolish Indiana’s merit system has emerged from committee. And Mike Delph’s effort to have Indiana emulate Arizona by targeting people who “look like” they might be illegal immigrants is moving along nicely (never mind that Arizona’s convention bookings declined 36% in the wake of that state’s law, and never mind that immigration is an exclusively federal responsibility).

And of course, our “representative representatives” aren’t content with defeating the anti-bullying bill, and reviving the bill to amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Taking their war against gay Hoosiers up a notch, there’s an upcoming committee vote on a bill to prohibit state universities from providing domestic partner benefits.

The haters and the crazies are well represented in the Indiana General Assembly. The rest of us, not so much.