Where is Divided Government When You Need It?

Or we could just call this post “the arrogance of power.”

I used to argue with friends who deliberately voted for divided government. It didn’t seem logical to install a system where little would get done–where agendas could easily be blocked. A vote for divided government was a vote for gridlock rather than action.

Gridlock has never looked so alluring.

For the first time in several years, the Republicans hold all the power in Indiana–they have a majority of the House and the Senate, and they have the Governor’s office. And they are using their unconstrained power with a vengeance. There’s been the stuff we all expected: we’ve seen the redistricting maps, for example, and as we all know, had the Democrats held all the power, the maps would have been no less politically motivated. But they haven’t stopped there, and some of the shenanigans have been truly outrageous (a word I try to use sparingly).

Two examples just from yesterday: Rep. Scott Schneider–one of the many “culture warriors” who dominate today’s GOP–inserted a budget amendment to completely de-fund Planned Parenthood. In pertinent part, the measure reads  “For any contract with or grant made to an entity that performs abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed covered under subsection (b), the budget agency shall make a determination that funds are not available, and the contract or grant shall be terminated under section 5 of this chapter.” It passed, with only two Republicans having the guts to vote against it (and several gutless Democrats voting for it.)

Clearly, for the zealots, the health of women who depend upon Planned Parenthood for pap smears, cancer screenings and birth control is far less important than imposing their religious beliefs on the rest of us, and inserting themselves into the most intimate decisions families have to make. What is even more despicable is that, for many of the Representatives who voted with the zealots,  women’s health is less important than political pandering.

The assault on women’s health and rights has been part of the GOP agenda for quite a while. It is one of the reasons for the gender gap. But the second example of arrogance was not ideological. It was pure self-serving politics.

As anyone who has been following the news knows, Secretary of State Charley White has been indicted on several counts, including voter fraud. Since the Secretary of State is in charge of elections and voting integrity for the state, this is a bit awkward, to put it mildly. A Marion County Judge has instructed the Election Board to determine whether White was eligible to run for that office. Under current law, if the Board finds that he wasn’t eligible, the candidate with the next highest vote total would be declared the winner. That would be Democrat Vop Osili. Not only would the GOP lose that office, but not having run a qualified candidate for Secretary of State, they would not be deemed to have received ten percent of the vote for that office–a requirement for major party status. They would have to conduct a petition drive to regain ballot access.

But not to worry! If the law disadvantages the majority, the majority will just change the law! And so they did. (Didn’t you always tell your children to play by the rules–but to change the rules so that they’d always win?? Of course you did.)

The GOP majority changed the law to provide that the Governor would appoint someone to fill the vacancy, and to avoid the pesky consequences of having run a felon for high office. Problem solved.

It’s interesting how the self-appointed guardians of our morality see nothing wrong with immoral behaviors that benefit them. In his speech urging passage of the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, Rep. Schneider insisted that the organization was focused mainly on abortion–a statement he had to know was false. He insisted poor women could easily get health services elsewhere (as Stephen Colbert deadpanned a few nights ago, surely Walgreen’s does pap smears!) In other words, he lied in order to advance his own peculiar version of morality.  In the case of Charley White, the party of righteousness, the party that insists on law and order, evidently believes that the rules are just for the “little folks” and Democrats.

It’s often said we get the government we deserve. If that’s true, we the people have been very, very bad.

4 thoughts on “Where is Divided Government When You Need It?

  1. Wonder what the outcome might be if the decision that White was not qualified were to come down before the governor signs the budget bill? Maybe the law in affect at the time of the decision would trump the new law. Just wonderin’.

  2. I think there are significant constitutional questions about the S.of S. change–wonder if the D’s will try to get a TRO.

  3. Professor Kennedy,
    As a long time advocate of Divided Government as a voting heuristic, I am sympathetic to your plight.

    I am also gratified to see you have found others who deliberately and consciously cast their vote for divided government. It is further gratifying to note that you will be arguing less strenuously in the future with my fellow dividists.

    It never fails to amuse when partisans recognize the virtues of divided government only when their party of preference is excluded from the seat of power. You have made a very good point here – when voters fail to restrain their elected leaders by assuring power is shared between the parties, they get the government they deserve. It cuts both ways.

    In any case, I realize I am late to the commenting party, but this is just a courtesy comment to let you know this post was included in the latest edition of the Carnival of Divided Government – a periodic compilation of articles, posts, and great thoughts (or not) on the subject of divided government.

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