Listen To My Friend Morton…

As regular readers of this blog know, Morton Marcus (who comments here from time to time) is a longtime friend with whom I co-authored a recent book on women’s rights, “From Property to Partner.”

Morton also writes a statewide newspaper column, primarily focused on data about Indiana, and occasionally comparing the actual activities of our dreadful legislature with his opinions about what that body ought to be doing. A recent column was so on target, I decided to share those recommendations. (Not that our supermajority Republican legislative overlords will pay the slightest bit of attention–they’re too busy micromanaging local government, destroying public education, pandering to the gun lobby, and imposing “Christian” behavioral restrictions on Hoosiers.)

The day before yesterday, you got Gulley, today you get Marcus.

The first of Morton’s recommendations was focused on legislative operations, which is sort of “inside baseball,” but important. He advocates releasing legislators to “act without the discipline of the Caucus. Let’s make the bold assumption that our 150 elected legislators are grownups. They can make their own decisions without the dictates of a repressive party leadership fully inebriated on the power of a super-majority of automatons.”

That will happen when pigs fly–or when we elect actual grownups.

Morton’s second recommendation–passage of independent redistricting– hits at the very center of Indiana’s continuing dysfunctions. Getting rid of gerrymandering would allow voters to choose their representatives; now, as sentient Hoosiers know, those representatives choose their voters. Gerrymandering is an absolutely wonderful mechanism for vote suppression–if your vote isn’t going to count, why cast it?

Morton also points out that an independent redistricting process would “likely rationalize districts such that two adjacent House districts would constitute one Senate district. No House districts would be divided.” As he notes, “Currently the Senate and the House district maps are independent of each other. It affords chaos and cover for the ambitions of individuals who seek lifetime membership in the General Assembly.”

His third recommendation hits on something else I’ve long advocated (there’s a reason we’ve been friends so long; we have similar, albeit not always congruent, views on the issues). He advocates adoption of the Maine Electoral College allocation rules.

Now the winner of the popular vote in Indiana gets all of the electoral votes in a presidential election. Under the system used in Maine, a notoriously left-wing coastal state, the winner of the statewide popular vote gets two electoral votes. The winner of each congressional district gets the one electoral vote of that district. No Constitutional amendment is needed for this move toward a more equitable system.

In 2020, instead of all 11 Indiana electoral votes going to the Repulsive candidate, that person would have received nine electoral votes and two such votes would have gone to the party that is Bidin’ its time.

(My apologies to those unfamiliar with the Gershwin songbook and who know only Taylor Swift lyrics.)

Morton also wants legislative study committees that would consider legislation reducing the number of townships in each county, and the number of counties in the states. (There are 92 counties in Indiana, in case you are wondering; California–somewhat larger– has 58).

 Why should Warren, Fountain, Parke and Vermillion not be joined into one or two counties? Perhaps Jasper and Newton counties should be returned to their former singularity. Let’s not neglect Blackford with Jay, Ohio with Dearborn or Switzerland.

I would miss the detailed data on each separate area, but my fetish is not the concern of the state. Likewise, cost cutting should not be the dominant objective, but rather improving service to citizens in line with the structure of society in the 21st century rather than the 19th century.

This last recommendation recalls that of the bipartisan Kernan-Shepard Commission, convened by then-Governor Mitch Daniels, that examined the operations of Indiana government and recommended merging or otherwise eliminating a number of the 1008 townships that each pay township boards and trustees and the expenses of trustee offices–artifacts of a time when reaching the county seat via horseback took half a day. As I wrote back in 2011, the Commission had the temerity to suggest that–in the age of the internet and the absence of virtually all of the other tasks with which those townships had originally been tasked– we should rethink them…

As members of that Commission discovered–and as Morton, a longtime Hoosier, clearly knows–Indiana legislators don’t “re-think.” Most of the time, they don’t really think in the first place.


  1. I have always loved his work and I’ve always wondered why Hoosiers have never listened to him. He’s never been radical, and seldom been wrong. After all these years telling Hoosiers the truth about their economy and the ruses the governors (both Republicans and Democrats) have used to paint a pretty picture of their programs, he deserves a medal.

  2. In this day and age, what really matters? I would say behind all of the technology and scientific advances over the last 150 years, the majority of people concerning their wants, desires and wishes, are the same as they always were.

    Those that came to this country to search for freedom and a better life, never found it! The tyranny of the European overlords just followed them here! The thought process, the self aggrandizing superiority of a certain ethnicities way of life.

    The freedom that they perceived an entitlement to, was not really freedom, it was authoritarian for the most part. The natives in this country were butchered, their land stolen, The government they live by destroyed, and those who were left packed into reservations.

    Then of course you have the slave trade, this was just as brutal, man’s inhumanity to man, a man becoming another man’s property.

    The Asians that came, were really persona non grata, they weren’t considered people with any rights whatsoever.

    And then of course women who were basically just property, with no rights, used as receptacles and incubators, maybe a little bit of arm candy, while the white land owning Christian males had all of the rights. They had the authority two inact laws and promote rules and regulations that further entrenched their positions.

    Of course, after a matter of time, there was a certain amount of progress made. But the inhumane activity of history was never reparated, Peace was never made with history!

    All the while the perceived threat of those others towards the Christian white male overlords, has made a dramatic resurgence.

    I’m not saying anything that is unknown, although, many really can’t tell where the trees end and the forest starts. So the flailing continues! Any steps forward are followed by two or three backward. And in this country right now we are in the midst of a backstroke marathon.

    The goal is to regain absolute power and authority, to produce that Hegemonic Agrarian power that was seeded throughout “Manifest Destiny!” Then, they will have perceived the ultimate wet dream, complete authoritarian fascist nationalism over everyone who is not like them.

    Human history is like doing laundry, it washes, rinses, and repeats! It has always been that way, and it always will until it isn’t anymore. Something has to give, and it will be a defining moment that will bring great angst to a majority of people.

    Voting as a form of government, will not change the trajectory of those who wish to project their authority and power. As we all know, once control of key sections of government, those who want complete power and authority can have it! Then it will be too late for anyone to change anything!

  3. In addition to an independent non-partisan redistricting commission, we need the initiative and referendum – to place a check on the Legislature

  4. Let’s all practice to be a Republican since Trump hijacked the party.

    Repeat after me. “Democrats lie!”

    That’s all there is to it. Honestly. Easy peasy.

    Actually, it helps though, if you don’t have a soul.

  5. In 2014 my husband, former State Senator Mike Kendall, wrote a letter advising the GOP in the House and Senate that the GOP caucus could be found guilty of conspiring to create legislation that would benefit State Rep P. Eric Turner of Cicero. Mr. Turner (at the time Speaker Pro Tem) represented House district 32 and owned a company that built and managed nursing homes. The State Legislature was considering legislation to put a moratorium on new nursing home construction in Indiana, but Mr. Turner wanted to kill that legislation as it would effect his business. Turner used his leadership position to strong arm the caucus to vote down the legislation that would harm him financially. Kendall’s letter indicated that the caucus could be taking part in a conspiracy that would violate RICO laws. The legislation did not pass.

    The letter was sent by email to every State Representative, State Senator, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Indianapolis press on November 25th, 2014. Turner announced his resignation later that day.

    Caucuses can act adversely to the public wishes because that have power in numbers. Perfect examples are the ban on abortion, refusal to legalize cannabis, and underfunding public schools. There are some GOP law-makers that would support these and other types of legislation preferred by the majority of Hoosiers, but gerrymandersing the the tight control of campaign funds by the GOP Caucus makes it impossible to have true representation in our state government.

    My husband and two GOP state reps that I won’t name to protect them, proved there is a way to stand up to the Caucus leaders and do what is right for their constituents. I can only hope the next election will give us more legislators that will stand up for what is best for Indiana, not the Republican Party.

  6. Dream on….”imagine”…while democracy crumbles around you. How abut better focus – one or two things that make a different and might get bi-partisan support?

  7. John Peter Sorg:

    “Those that came to this country to search for freedom and a better life never found it! The tyranny of the European overlords just followed them here!”

    Republicans might point out that immigrants’ lives are improved because here, they have iPhones, old pickup trucks, television, Costco, and Walmart. Still, I think what Republicans miss is that freedom and the marriage of regulating government to build the infrastructure and regulated Capitalism caused it.

  8. You know…you folks who want something approaching a functioning democracy? I don’t know about you? (Snark).

  9. What we Democrats call dictatorship of the Republican caucus is called “discipline” by the commanders of that caucus. Independent thought is a no-no and subject to political discipline within the ranks, and their Big Tent theory suffers accordingly.

    Thus when voting for Republican candidates the Republican polity is not really voting for whom he/she thinks, i.e., he/she is voting for the commanders of that caucus who carry the big stick of “discipline” and not the one appearing on the ballot. We have seen that truism carried out on the federal level where the fear of being primaried has caused many Republican candidates to endorse Trump when they secretly detest him and his primary opponents are soft-pedaling his felonious conduct as though destruction of our Constitution and overthrow of our government were the equivalent of a speeding ticket, thanks to his successful normalization of his criminal conduct of 1/6, his promise to pardon those already convicted, his description of such criminals as “hostages,” etc.

    1/6 was anything but “normal” since no president has ever before attempted to destroy our Constitution and overthrow our government as, fortunately, Herr Trump is going to discover, inter alia, that the “poor me” speeches he gives to his cult are not admissible evidence in a court of law and will be excluded. His fate, like that of all others charged with a crime or crimes, will be decided by jurors on the facts and the law.

    As I have noted previously, Trump makes Benedict Arnold look like an Eagle Scout.

  10. Lord Acton, no fool he, said:

    “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

    “Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.”

  11. Thank you Sheila for extending the reach of my column. However, nit picker that I am, you didn’t include a short note informing your tribe they can receive my weekly homily free of charge by sending their email mail address to me at
    “Eye on the Pie” (EOP) has appeared in Hoosier newspapers since 1990 with data and observations about Indiana.
    Unlike you, Sheila, I do not provide an easy opportunity for readers to broadcast their enthusiasm or venom. Although corrections, comments, complaints, and criticism are welcome, it is by return email only, not a public forum.

  12. J.P. Sorg, you wrote: “Human history is like doing laundry, it washes, rinses, and repeats! It has always been that way, and it always will until it isn’t anymore. Something has to give, and it will be a defining moment that will bring great angst to a majority of people.” Much of what you write is often so wise. Today, those two sentences are the wisdom for the day and maybe even the week and month.

  13. Re: “Human history…” In very broad strokes there is truth in that. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no difference in quality of life from one era to the next. Regarding my personal quality (and length) of life, I count myself lucky to be living here and now. By our actions we humans can lengthen or shorten the various periods of the laundry cycle. I suspect that a sense of hopelessness says more about the person than it does about history.

  14. Every suggestion is a winner, and a cost saver for the townships and gives you a functioning democracy. There’s probably no Republican that will agree though. Good luck!

  15. I will point out that Republicans have long supported the Maine allocation rules — for New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and other “blue states”, but not for Texas and Indiana.

    All in all, I like all of the ideas presented. As stated, this is the 21st Century, not the 19th.

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