Monday, June 28, 2010

Is it a "problem" to advocate a minority position?

Cory Heidelberger's Madville Times blog recently covered the split vote of South Dakota's Senators on SB 3310, which designates about 75 miles of grassland as national wilderness - that is, land under Federal management.

There are already 30-plus comments on his blog post, arguing for and against the bill. It is a great example of civic engagement and debate.

That brings me back to Cory's headline, "Johnson Good on Grassland Wilderness; What's Thune's Problem?"

Why is it a problem that Thune is against the act? So are several of Cory's commenters. That's our political system: all sides get a hearing and have their advocates.

If Cory is right, it sounds like the act has a pretty solid coalition of area residents and interests in favor, and Senator Tim Johnson (D) voting their position.

So Sen. John Thune (R) is arguing what seems to be a minority position - albeit a significant minority including the South Dakota's Governor and Legislature, ranchers and, to judge from the comments, folks who just like the land the way it is without a new layer of "management."

So, what's the problem? The Founders' complaint was not "taxation," but "taxation without representation." It is vital that all interests be represented when there's an issue. There does not have to be unanimity and no political decision can generate 100% satisfaction. There will be "winners and losers." But if the "losers" get a fair chance to make their case, and have their advocates in the legislature, that's about the best we can do - certainly preferable to bureaucratic fiat or shopping for a biased judge to force an outcome.


caheidelberger said...

An interesting point, Father Tim!

Of course you know, I have no problem with the act of representing the minority opinion (9 times out of 10, that's what I'm doing as a secular humanist Wellstone/Kucinich Democrat in South Dakota!). If the Senator were simply making a good-hearted, fair-minded effort to give an apparent minority a voice, I wouldn't call that a problem. But whomever he is representing, the "problem" is that Senator Thune is just wrong, claiming harms that the bill specifically addresses and prevents.

And I doubt the Senator really is acting solely to advocate for a minority. He doesn't do that on other issues. Consider Ellsworth AFB: all three in our delegation fight to keep Ellsworth open; why doesn't Senator Thune depart from the Chamber of Commerce line and represent my minority that feels Ellsworth is used more as pork than responsible military policy? Why didn't Thune break from our unanimous delegation on last year's credit card reform to represent my minority (?) view that usury is a bad basis for South Dakota's economy?

TLF+ said...

In my goofier moments, I think we should have a parliamentary system and vote for parties/platforms rather than individuals. That way, we could expect clear cut choices instead of our individuals doing whatever seems prudent for reelection or maybe donations.

Of course Europe has its share of problems so parliamentary can't be perfect.

I agree with your second paragraph - at least one of our three DC types should have represented the anti-pork and anti-usury positions.

The late Jesse Unruh, a prominent CA politician and commentator, is often cited as the source of "Money is the mother's milk of politics" (although he once addressed a class I was in and indicated that it was a well established saying that just kinda stuck to him). But he was undeniably right. Anti-pork, "limited government" pols will vote pro-pork to keep porky govt. jobs in their own state. Usurers will be insultated by their ability to produce or deny election donations.

But then there was George McGovern's quote the other day about voters getting what they elect - when most folks get their news from "E" or magazines at the market checkout, or simply go with the best music video styled candidate commercial, we can grouse only so much.

caheidelberger said...

That's why we need to get folks to dump "E" and get their news from us bloggers! Then they'd hear all sorts of minority positions! :-)