If you want to understand why government in our country is so often lost, ineffectual and misguided, just look at what’s happening in our Indiana General Assembly.
And, by the way, it is our—meaning it belongs to the citizens of this state—General Assembly. More on that in a moment.
So far this session, we’ve seen our state lawmakers devote copious amounts of time and energy to debating measures that would ban schools from teaching a concept no school in the state currently teaches, would allow people to possess firearms without permits and would prevent private businesses from protecting employees and customers from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Are the legislators pursuing any of these narrow and often narrow-minded causes because of a mass outcry from the public?
At most, in each situation, the pressure to enact a new law comes from a well-organized, loud and very small minority.
The larger public’s concerns are just that—larger, much larger, in scope.
Here in Indiana, as elsewhere, the overarching worries are about the ongoing scourge of the pandemic and the galloping inflation produced by supply-line problems and the expanding labor shortage economists have been warning us about for the past 15 years.
These threats—and they are threats—have shaken Hoosiers and Americans to their core. Many, many people in this state fear that the lives they knew, that they worked and worked hard for are disappearing before their eyes. They worry that the lives of their children and grandchildren will be worse because their elective representatives not only can’t respond to real problems and danger, those representatives often pretend the problems and dangers don’t exist.
Instead, the lawmakers focus their attention to trivial matters and indulge in often foolish fantasies.
Like banning a subject that isn’t even taught.
Or telling business owners, in the name of freedom, that they aren’t allowed to protect themselves and their own interests.
Why is this?
Why are so many of our lawmakers so clueless, so out of touch with the people they are supposed to represent?
Because they can be.
Because, in the way things work now, they aren’t our lawmakers.
We are their voters.
At least that’s the way they see it.
And that’s the way they like it.
The fate of Indiana Senate Joint Resolution 14 makes that clear.
Authored by Indiana Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, SJR 14 is short and to the point:
“Repeals the constitutional provision for drawing legislative districts by the general assembly. Requires the general assembly to establish an independent redistricting commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. This proposed amendment has not been previously agreed to by a general assembly.”
What Qaddoura’s measure would do, in even simpler terms, is take the power for drawing legislative maps out of the politicians’ hands and put it back where it belongs.
In the hands of the people.
Last year featured a series of public meetings and hearings on redistricting. They were well attended. At every one of the meetings, the overwhelming majority of the citizens present said they wanted an independent commission determining how legislative maps should be drawn.
They wanted the voters to choose the officeholders they want.
And not have officeholders pick the voters they want.
The people spoke last year. The lawmakers’ response was succinct.
Talk to the hand.
It turns out that politicians like not being answerable to voters. They ignored all requests for an independent commission.
The new year hasn’t changed anything.
The supermajority Republican caucus in the Senate has refused to hear SJR 14. They don’t even want to listen to ordinary people asking for the right to have their voices heard and their votes matter.
Instead, those same lawmakers prefer to devote time, energy and money from stopping things that aren’t even happening and pleasing powerful and often well-funded special interests.
While the state and the country struggle, they prefer to play games.
Because they can.
Because that’s the way they want it.
It might be a good time to remind them that they are supposed to work for us.
Might be a good idea to call senators and tell them to take time away from their games of trivial pursuit and give SJR 14 a hearing.