Daily Planet, 8/2015

“If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable, we would rush to be saintly.  But since avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought, we must stand fast ourselves.” – Sir Thomas More in the play/movie, A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt (modernized)

Yes, he’s the same Thomas More who wrote Utopia in 1516. And yes, the Utopians in his novel did have some pretty quirky policies,like universal healthcare.  And other stuff like punishing adulterers with enslavement.

More was a “political philosopher,” not a dreamer.   He was Henry VIII’s right-hand man until he refused to support Henry’s divorce and his taking over as head of the English church. He was executed.

It could be said that all of us are political philosophers. We all have our own ideas about how government should work. For a moment now, I want to do a little dreaming of my own.

What if…what if voters scrutinized candidates like they were hiring a caretaker for their parents? What if the media sought out a character profile of candidates, not just the woooo scandalous stuff? What do their neighbors and employees say about them? Are they fair, generous, humble, slow to judgment, encouraging, flexible, forgiving? Or are they glad-handing frauds, who love power and thrive on confrontation? Do they hold grudges? Are they vengeful, arrogant, heartless, egocentric, quick to anger, self-serving?   And perhaps most important, are they skilled at deception?

Political philosophy aside now, I want to write as a patriot who loves his adopted state and hates what our General Assembly is doing to it.

I’m not talking about Republicans’ conservative political philosophy. No, I’m talking about their actions that show who they really are. And I’m expressing sadness at the short-sightedness of people who vote for them.

All over North Carolina, Republican candidates promised Evangelical Christian that they would fight against abortion and gay marriage. Pastors picked up the beat, and Evangelicals voted Republican with great zeal.

And once elected, Republicans did indeed pass laws restricting abortion and got a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage. They did what they promised.

But then, just as the old saying goes, our conservative Christian Republican legislators gave in to the corrupting tug of absolute power.

To borrow from Winston Churchill: Never have so few lied so much to so many.

Let’s go back to the summer of 2013 for one example.   The 2012 election had increased GOP majorities in the General Assembly. Then in June, the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the federal Voting Rights Act so that prior federal approval wasn’t necessary any more.

Republicans acted right away, passing a Voting Reform Act that requires voter I.D., shortens early voting by a week, ends same-day registration, ends a successful high school voter registration program, gives polling observers more authority to intervene. The law was obviously designed to inconvenience Democratic constituencies.

So how did Republicans explain their legislation?   The law, they said, aims to end “rampant and widespread undetected voter fraud.” They really did say that. They’re good at cheating, bad at lying.

Colin Powell, speaking to the North Carolina CEO Forum, reacted like you probably did: “There is no voter fraud….How can it be [both] widespread and undetectable?”   He added: “I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it harder to vote.”

Indeed, investigation after investigation has found no significant voter fraud. Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State spent $150,000 and found nothing.  The Wall Street Journal told of one exhaustive study that found 2,068 cases of alleged voter fraud in the U.S. since 2000, including 10 cases of voter impersonation.

The ideal state government doesn’t need more Christian lawmakers who will vote faithfully on social issues. We need people of real character, who don’t cheat in the electoral process, who tell the truth, who don’t yield to the temptations that come with power.