Friday, February 05, 2010
It's an Election Year
Economists are quick to tell us that our economy is showing signs of recovery. This seems to mean that Wall St. is doing well. Main St. doesn’t seem to be ready to tap dance just yet. The unemployment rate for New Hampshire was seven percent in January. Those statistics are skewed to be lower than the real numbers of unemployed. They don’t count folks who haven’t been able to find a job long after their unemployment benefits ended, or those who weren’t eligible in the first place. The real number is perhaps as high as 14%. More NH families are using food stamps than ever before. Our homes aren’t worth what they used to be, though foreclosures seem to be slowing down. In other words, for the most part, the news isn’t good. NH folks are having a tough time, and tough times always seem even tougher in the north country.
In response to these tough times, the Republicans of our legislature spent last summer coming up with legislation aimed at solving NH’s economic woes. Apparently the cure for a bad economy is forcing women and girls to bear unwanted babies, and to deprive gay folks of the right to marry. Another important piece of legislation is being developed by local Representative Gene Chandler, who is working on a bill that would repeal an earlier decision by the Legislative Facilities Committee to ban guns in the State House. This is being presented as an issue of Great Importance, one that gets to the very heart of our freedoms in NH! This is being presented as a partisan issue – those evil Democrats would deprive you of your right to bring your gun to a state building!
What Representative Chandler isn’t telling us, is that guns were banned from the State House from 1996 to 2006. Chandler has served 12 terms in the NH legislature. He was speaker of the House from 2000 to 2004. He was the ranking House member on the Legislative Facilities Committee for 4 years during the original ban. During this time, Representative Chandler never filed a repeal bill. The oft-touted concerns for the safety of the staff and other legislators took a long time to develop. Fourteen years is a very long time.
In other news, Representative David Bates of Windham launched a campaign called Let the People Vote. In response to our state’s economic woes, Rep. Bates has chosen to attack marriage equality. He’s pushing to get a petition to get a warrant article on every ballot of SB2 towns, and put before every town meeting. This is aimed at pressuring the legislature to pass CACR 28, an amendment to the NH Constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. At the recent CACR 28 hearing in Concord, Representative Bates dismissed the suggestion that he’s taking any money for this, and said that he’s paid for all of this out of his own pocket. It is interesting to note that the PAC created for the Let the People Vote campaign is registered to Rep. Bates, and at the website, there’s a convenient button to push to make donations. Representative Bates also seems to be involved with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) an out-of-state group based in New Jersey. NOM was heavily involved in the California and Maine anti-marriage equality campaigns. They’re rather secretive about where all their money comes from. There are deep suspicions that NOM is a front for the Mormon Church, and its very deep pockets. In any case, most of the towns that have dealt with this petition so far have voted it down. Rindge, Rindge, Rye, Winchester, Alstead, Deerfield, Bethlehem, Goffstown, Wolfeboro, and Londonderry all voted against discrimination.
“Let the people vote” has become the new slogan of those who would enshrine bigotry in our state constitution. The supporters of this effort will bellow at length about the Constitution – both state and federal. These people don’t understand the concept of representative democracy at all – and feel that somehow they’ve been treated unfairly by not being allowed to vote on this particular issue. I heard Rep. Bates say he was not opposed to putting slavery and interracial marriage to the popular vote. The Bill of Rights was never put to a popular vote. A number of the same folks who wail about their right to carry a gun into the NH State House are the same ones who want desperately to vote to discriminate against gay people. The Second Amendment was never put to a popular vote. Funny how those who go on about the Constitution are perfectly okay with that piece of representative democracy, considering that some of them would have been denied the right to vote at the time the US Constitution was ratified. Should we let the people vote on the Second Amendment? Ending slavery was never put to a popular vote, nor was desegregation, the voting rights act, or the 19th Amendment, for that matter. Catholics were banned from holding office or teaching school in NH until 1877. The framers of the Constitution understood the tyranny of the majority.
Meanwhile, the sky has not fallen since January 1, when gay couples began to marry. Those who would discriminate tell us of the need to “protect” heterosexual marriage. I haven’t heard a single story of a heterosexual couple divorcing because of gay folks getting married. The sky didn’t fall when slavery ended, when women stopped being male property, when integration came to pass, or when the laws against interracial marriage were overturned. This is just another step forward into a less discriminatory world. We will all have the chance to vote against going backwards – something NH has so far refused to do.
At a time when so many are jobless, when cities and towns are facing drastic budget cuts -one would hope that both parties could come together to work on solving the very real problems facing our state. Instead, the minority party is choosing to grandstand on hyper-partisan ideological issues. Yep, it’s an election year.
© 2010 sbruce
Published as an op-ed in the 2-5-10 edition of the Conway Daily Sun.
h/t to Ben Sargent for the cartoon
Posted by susanthe at 11:31 AM