When Representation Doesn’t Represent

I used to joke about watching our wallets–and our liberties–when Indiana’s legislature was in session.

I wish that admonition could be dismissed as just a joke…

I’ve previously detailed some of the weird and worrisome bills introduced this session: Jim Lucas’ effort to give tax credits to the maniacs who purchase deadly weapons; the multitude of bills to steal funds from the state’s public schools; and  thinly-veiled efforts to ban Drag Queen Story Hours, among others.

I’ve also argued that these and many other bills are a dramatic departure from what was previously Republican orthodoxy. In my former party–a party that no longer exists–attempts to tell businesses what they can and cannot invest in or the criteria they should employ when making business decisions would have been unthinkable.

But here we are, with a GOP so radicalized that toxic Congresscritter Jim Banks has a head start in the race for Senate. 

One recent departure from prior GOP orthodoxy is a bill that would prevent the state’s public retirement system from working with banks or investing in funds that prioritize environmental, social or governance policies. That would include those that restrict investments in specified industries, such as coal or firearm manufacturers.

House Bill 1008 has been identified as “priority legislation” for the House Republicans caucus.

As Michael Leppert wrote in a recent column on the issue,

As reported by the New Jersey Monitor last summer, “Nineteen Republican state attorneys general wrote a letter to BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which manages $10 trillion,” accusing “BlackRock of making decisions based on its alleged political agenda rather than the welfare of state pensions.” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita was among the signatories. 

If ESG investing is a political position, isn’t blocking or banning that investing also taking a political position? Of course, it is. 

It is the position of Republicans nationally to ignore climate change, and to oppose social progress and governance standards that consider it. SB 292 is the Indiana version of the national GOP political “platform,” if their grievance strategy can actually be called that. 

Last December, I quoted from a column from the Capital Chronicle that illustrated  how very unrepresentative our gerrymandered state legislature is.

Poll after poll and survey after survey shows what Indiana residents are worried about, and what they aren’t.

Bellwether Research’s latest poll in early December surveyed 1,100 Hoosiers representing both the demographic and geographic layout of Indiana. It asked about their top priorities.

Wishes one and two were lowering health care costs and affordable housing, at 31% and 21% respectively….Next up was increasing K-12 education funding at 17%. Nothing after is in double digits…

That poll also found that 56% of Hoosiers believe marijuana should be legal for personal use and 29% for medicinal purposes. Only 15% say it should not be legal. Another found that over 80% of Hoosier parents approved of their children’s school and curriculum.

And don’t get me started on the ban on abortion passed by state legislators despite  repeated polling confirming that Indiana citizens are pro-reproductive-choice by significant margins. Or the willingness of our despicable AG to pay an “extra” 100,000 to harass the doctor who aborted a raped ten-year-old. Or the absence of evidence that Hoosiers really want those legislators to pick on transgender children.

As I noted in that December post–okay, as I’ve noted repeatedly–the enormous disconnect between what Hoosier voters actually want and what we get from our culture warrior lawmakers is a direct result of the extreme gerrymandering that produces safe seats and allows lawmakers to ignore the demonstrated policy preferences of a majority of Indiana citizens.

Gerrymandering, after all, is the very best voter suppression tactic. Why bother to vote when the result has been foreordained–or, to use Trump language, when the election results have already been rigged? Gerrymandering amplifies the power of the fringes–the ideologues and culture warriors who vote in primaries–and effectively disenfranchises the rest of us.

Reporting on the antics at the Statehouse is one of the very few checks on lawmakers bent on pursing their own cultural fixations, and central Indiana has been ill-served by the Star’s devolution into sports and what has been called the “beer beat”–reports on new watering holes. That makes the arrival of the Indiana Capital Chronicle very welcome. The Chronicle describes itself as an “independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections.”

Information, unfortunately, isn’t enough. It will require national legislation to thwart Indiana gerrymandering, since the only way to stop it at the state level requires action from the same politicians who benefit from it.

Hoosiers will see state-level reform at about the same time as we see pigs fly.


  1. What would happen if we all registered as republicans? How could they gerrymander the state into Districts??

  2. Brilliant article as always. I am one of those Hoosiers whose vote is erased by my GOP legislators. I have no representation and it is demoralizing and infuriating. Indiana’s House districts, redrawn by Republicans, are some of the worst gerrymandered in the entire country.
    Voters: 42% Republican, 37% Democrats
    Hoosier federal representation, 9 Republicans, 2 Democrats

  3. When a large enough portion of a population no longer believes that their government is competent, that their legislature represents their interests, that their courts are fair, then you no longer have a democracy. What you have is some kind of dysfunctional oligarchy pushing all towards revolution. Indiana seems to be the canary in that dark and foreboding mine. Just look at the daily Hoosier gun slaughter our state government refuses to address.

  4. Can’t citizens sue to have the gerrymandering looked at? What are our actual rights when they take away the say of the population?

  5. Janice, good idea?
    Better one:
    How do we erase the constitutional mandate controlled by elected ones, that we citizens have to be gerrymandered?

  6. It’s embarrassing to watch grown men and women cheating to gain seats for their donors. Indiana is the classic example of an oligarchy whereby the politicians take orders from their oligarchic donors instead of listening to their constituents.

    The oligarchs need gerrymandering to hold on to power because of the statistics Sheila mentioned – most Hoosiers want to progress socially, economically, and politically. And this scares the shit out of the Koch dark networks, which seek the opposite.

    Cheat, lie, and use propaganda to preserve billions in profits. If CAFOs and coal-burning plants can’t pollute, it would be super-expensive for these companies. Defund the IRS so they can’t investigate the dark networks used by oligarchs to hide their contributions to politicians.

    It’s really simple once you let go of the ‘democracy illusion.’ Our “representatives” serve the oligarchs, which is why Kevin McCarthy voted to “denounce socialism.” Do you think the oligarchy sponsored that?

    Of course, they did.

    Black Rock will be poaching social security, and medicare is too expensive for the oligarchy that wants to reduce its tax obligation. And remember, the Koch network wants to rid society of our government. They even want to eliminate voting and replace it with free market concepts — where we spend our dollars (choice) rules.


  7. Indiana Republicans are not even loyal to retired public employees throughout the state; being a Republican state the majority of these retirees are Republicans, elderly Republicans. These Retirees include public employees, teachers, judges, police officers, firefighters, Excise, Gaming & Conservation Officers, prosecutors and legislators.

    My forced early retirement due to becoming disabled at age 57 and the need to withdraw half of my Public Employee Retirement Fund (PERF) to live on lowered my retirement benefits by half. We received our last COLA in 2009 but continued receiving the 13th Check (amount depending on number of years of service) each year after voting which we preferred keeping; it was the same amount once yearly. My 13th Check worked out to be $20.11 monthly; in 2021 the Republican Indiana Senate ended the yearly check, to be replaced with a 1% COLA beginning in 2022. My COLA is $2.39 monthly. The Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS) is again going before the Legislature with HB 1028 to reinstate the 13th Check with a $50.00 increase. Conditions here have worsened with Republican control so it is beyond doubtful this bill will pass.

    “One recent departure from prior GOP orthodoxy is a bill that would prevent the state’s public retirement system from working with banks or investing in funds that prioritize environmental, social or governance policies.” In 2017 we were notified the PERF funds had been transferred for disbursement to State Street Retiree Services in State Street Bank. We were told to reregister our PERF account to State Street Retiree Services IF WE WISHED TO CONTINUE RECEIVING OUR RETIREMENT FUNDS.

    “When Representation Doesn’t Represent” it “trickles down” to Indiana’s retired senior’s income, those who served in local and state government, for most for their entire working years. My amount is minimal; but for those in higher positions for many more years, it is a meaningful loss.

  8. What would happen if the people of Indiana were to organize and phone bank the legislation relentlessly until they get a full dose of our discontent?
    There is a really great newsletter called “Chop Wood/Carry Water” that provides a valuable template for contacting legislators. I recommend checking it out if you want to get involved and take some action beyond lamenting to each other about the direction our legislature is taking.

  9. Shiela, thank you for today’s insightful opinion on the state of our Indiana legislature. I also am a subscriber to Indiana Capitol Chronicle and have come to rely on this publication for credible news about what is going on with Hoosier public policy.

    Who churns out these ideas like tax credits for purchasing a weapon used in mass shootings? The next big idea we might read is a tax credit if your spermazota penetrates the egg. All you have to do is present a birth certificate and a valid gun permit to apply the tax credit. Rokita could be the first State Attorney General to announce AR-15 Babies!

  10. Despite gerrymandering and other voter suppression efforts it is important everyone on team blue, or team purple, vote in every election, not just “The Big One”. Many who think “why bother” because they are gerrymandered might be surprised occasionally if they would show up and cast a ballot. The supposed majority get cocky & relax, taking for granted “their side” will win and they stay home ( something we should probably encourage when “their side” is a destructive as today’s “republicans” are) confident that team red will win again.

  11. Having lived in downtown Indianapolis for the last 30+ years, I used to be a Republican that registered as a Democrat just so I would have some influence in who was going to win in the fall election. That was mostly because I was (and still am) in a Gerrymandered “packed” district where it was guaranteed that a Democrat would win. For the last few primaries, I am once again registering as Republican to try to slow down the crazy at the state level, BUT the last general election, with the amount of crazy on the ticket, I think I voted straight Democrat for the first time in my life.

    In addition, I used to spend some time on the state “contact your….” page. When I would contact the Democrats that represented Indianapolis, I would at least get what looked like a canned response from an aid a few days later, and this was even from Democratic representatives outside of my district. But since my state representative and senator are Democratic, it was pretty much useless to contact them, so when a particular bill was going to come up for a hearing in committee, I would find which committee and contact all of the members of the commitee. I don’t know what criteria Republican lawmakers use when they get communications on certain topics, but I never even got an automatic acknowledgement that my commutation was received, much less a any other kind of response, so I can only assume any attempt at communication falls into a black hole.

    Yes, Indiana Representatives do not represent Indian voters.

  12. Maybe Ron Klain can be enticed back home to try to breathe life into the moribund Indiana Democratic Party.

  13. James & Jeffrey, I like your idea of contacting your reps and giving them Hell. The problem is, in my Indiana district, the Republicans won’t even show up to debates. They also won’t talk to anybody, including journalists, who they perceive as not friendly.

    I’ve been shut out from local political parties because I challenge them. Even the state reps ignore me. They are all mostly a ton of worthlessness.


  14. Indiana roughly 4.7 million voters. of those 1.6 million don’t vote. Most, or at least many, of those potential voters are likely just not paying attention. If we could get just 20 percent of those voters to vote, we could be a blue state. There’s a project to work on!

  15. I truly hope that the state R party will find a much better candidate to run for Congress, because if they choose to hand the Senate seat on a silver platter to the utterly despicable Banks we will be sending one of the most dangerous self-serving creatures that ever existed back to DC with much more power than that creature currently has.

  16. Sheila:
    based on several of the comments above, perhaps you need to do a column explaining that in Indiana, you don’t state any party affiliation when registering to vote. Unless you choose to vote in a primary election, no one is identified by party.
    The gerrymandering is based on data from actual election results, not registration data.

  17. It is easy to make a claim that the State Democrat Party is not a viable entity when standing up to the State GOP. As the Democrat Chair of Dubois County (home of Braun) and the 8th District Democratic Party Secretary, I feel that I have the credibility to claim that it is not the Party that falls short, but the tight control of the GOP in the state and the lack of resources to get a counter message out from the Democrats.

    Consider the landscape of Indiana outside of the major metro areas: we have little to no local news papers, no media that covers our local politics, a huge age and income disparity, and the voter apathy that comes with narrow primaries and controlled (gerrymandered) districts. Our county party has the support of many, but we need resources (people and money) to inform the voters of our stance on the issues Sheila discussed.

    To remedy this information desert, our District and County Party is launching a marketing plan that includes contact by email, social media, podcasts. We are working on getting out the vote as our data shows that southern Indiana has nearly 1/2 of registered voters that are Independents, and do not vote on a regular basis, all part of the GOP plan.

    If any of you feel compelled to help us with our dilemma, you can find us on https://duboisdemocratparty.org/

Comments are closed.