Politically, I'm independent. I will, occasionally, find a politician from either party that I actually want to vote for. The rest of the time, I choose the least unacceptable of the two options, or, all too often, I hold my nose and vote.
The last few months, I have to hold my nose to read the paper. I've been following politics since I was in junior high school back in the 1970's. The current crop of NC Republican state legislators is... how to put it politely... crazy? whacko? totally off the map?
I really am independent. I'll read something thoughtful and well-written from either side. I may not agree with it, but even an essay I don't agree with can start me thinking or help me to clarify my opposing view.
This time, I can't even understand where these legislators are coming from, and how they have found so many who can vote for irrelevant or irrational bills (here's the list in the Charlotte Observer which prompted this post).
For instance, from what I've read in the papers, the Republicans haven't even tried to come up with a public justification for keeping college students from voting. The proposed law says that, if college students register to vote at college, their parents can no longer claim them as dependents on their state income tax.
They've provided no reasoning behind the bill.
Of course, I'm sure the underlying reason is to make it more difficult for college students, who are usually more liberal, to vote. However, even going by Republican partisan politics, this is a stupid move. They're not only giving the Republican party an even worse reputation among those students, they're angering their parents who could be Democrats or Republicans - or really irritated independents.
When daughter and older son were both little, back in the mid-1990's, our small voting location in eastern Durham, NC was on the national news. It was a major election, and we only had one working voting machine. The lines went on for hours, and they closed the voting late at night to give everyone a chance to vote. I stood in line with two small children for hours because I've always considered thoughtful voting to be extremely important. Now, they want to make that more difficult for my kids when they're finally old enough to vote?
A prominent NC Republican is quoted in the article explaining the changes: "What they’re trying to do is help us rebuild the state’s economy. They feel they have a very limited amount of time to make the kind of reforms they want to make and put them in place before they get picked apart."
The Republicans keep mentioning the economy, but so many of the changes don't have any economic value. Here are some quoted from the article [Sarcastic comments in brackets are mine.]:
- Marriage: Couples would have to wait two years rather than one to divorce. They would have to take courses on communications skills and conflict resolution and – if they have children – courses on the impact of divorce on children. [Economics? No. Busybody-ness.]
- Helmets: Anyone 18 years or older could ride a motorcycle without a helmet if the driver meets certain requirements, including having had a motorcycle license for more than a year. [Why is this necessary?]
- Charter schools: Teachers would not have to have a college degree to teach core subjects. Criminal background checks and teacher certification would be optional. [Churches do background checks for Sunday School teachers who only teach for an hour a week, but teachers who are responsible for children for a large part of the week don't need to be checked. Why?]
- Teacher tenure: Tenure in public schools would be replaced with contracts for one, two, three or four years. [The state is not going to retain the best teachers by taking away job protections and reducing salaries. That is basic economic logic.]
- Indecent exposure: Women could be sent to prison for going topless in public in legislation to amend the state’s indecent exposure law by including "the nipple, or any portion of the areola, or the female breast" in the definition of "private parts." [Because NC is overrun with rampaging female breasts.][Really - if NC was overrun in that way, wouldn't it help the economy?!]
- School bus speed: School buses could go as fast as 55 mph. Under current law, 45 mph is the top legal speed for buses with children aboard, and 55 mph for school activity buses. Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, says slow buses are “a hazard.” [Only if the other drivers are bad drivers who shouldn't be on the road.]
I could make this blog post really long and look for more examples (they're not difficult to find), but I'll try to keep it short(er). The Democrats, the last time they were in power in NC, passed a number of bills that I thought were more controversial than they had support for. I don't remember which bills in particular, but I remembered saying that, if they kept doing this, there would be a backlash.
There is, and it's a bad one. I'm amazed at how many stupid bills the Republicans have come up with this time around.
The Republicans may get some short-term gain from their politics and policies, but they're not looking to the long term. They're alienating numerous groups and making themselves look intolerable to the upcoming generations. Younger son just started really paying attention to politics in the last few years, and he has no respect for the current Republican politicians.
The greatest danger in the short term, however, is that independent voters, like myself, who used to vote for Republicans some of the time, will not only stop voting for them (I didn't find any worth voting for last November (and I tried!) so I voted straight ticket Democrat for the first time ever), but will actively work against the Republicans, which I plan to do at the next election.