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Indiana: another kind of “Red” state

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2012-11-15


A precinct co-worker on election day sneered that election observers from the UN would get a very rough reception if they came to her precinct. She had read somewhere in the media that international agencies had questions as to whether voting was fair in the US. Most of us agree that there is a bit of cheating, but most of us strongly feel the American system is as clean as it gets and that international observers could better spend their time checking on Ukraine or Belarus, instead. It is a prevailing sentiment of people like my precinct co-worker that we do things perfectly and that the rest of the world should simply learn from us and butt out.

Of course, it is not true.

Years ago author Teddy White wrote in one of his books, The Making of the President, that Indiana was one of the most corrupt political states in the country, right up there with New Jersey, Illinois and New York. He added that it was not because we were on the take or murderous, just that we arranged things in ways so blatantly unfairly that the crooks in rough-and-tumble Tammany Hall New York would blush. According to Teddy White, setting up unnecessarily restrictive rules, changing the rules in the middle of the game, or simply dismissing results was the Indiana way.

He would probably find plenty to write about today.

Remember earlier this year when Republican candidate-elect Charlie White was convicted of falsifying his address to win an office in a locale where he was not a resident? He won that low-level race and then later found himself elevated by his party to be a candidate for Secretary of State where it all caught up with him. It was in that statewide race where scrutiny is significantly greater that his little lie was reveal. Hoosier voters elected him anyway. We will elect them, you see, but convicted felons just can’t vote. The insult to the senses, however, was added by the Indiana legislature when they changed the rules governing his succession in mid-stream and retroactively to cut a Democrat out and simply to insure a fellow Republican replaced him. The law had, until then, stated the second place finisher should succeed to the office, and that, god forbid, would have been a Democrat. It was the same as having the refs rewrite the rules of the game to call back a touchdown and make sure their team would win.

Speaking of Win, the last state redistricting was all but an exercise in getting rid of Win Moses. It could have been named the “Let’s Gang Up on Win Republican Redistricting Bill of 2010.” The Republican legislature hated him so much for his leadership, for his insights and for his determination that they changed the boundaries of his district to make it impossible for him to win. To their consternation, he almost did win, despite replacing most of his Democratic precincts with staunchly Republican suburbs. The Republicans say in defense that is was just their turn to gerrymander, as the Democrats had done a decade earlier. Probably a fair assessment, but not in the best interests of Fort Wayne or Indiana, unless you have a Republican-party-above-all mindset. Just another example of stacking the deck.

Now Republicans are floating conniving how to snatch victory from defeat, namely in their unexpected and overwhelming loss in the Superintendent of Public Education office. The idea, namely, is to change the office of superintendent of public instruction from an elected position where you decide into a position appointed by the governor, who is a Republican. Given a Democrat just convincingly spanked a Republican incumbent and ran well ahead of the Republican candidate for governor it smacks of the sort of corruption that Teddy White wrote about; legal, but jaw-droppingly arrogant.

A good friend, himself a Republican office holder in the legislature, said he is worried now that his party — his party — has a super majority in both houses of the legislature. He thinks that down state legislators will offer very aggressive and restrictive new laws in every part of your life.

A noted political observer in Indianapolis similarly worries that the Republicans will not show restraint and consideration for minority positions when new measures are introduced. Katy-bar-the-door was his comment.

What he fears is one-party government of the sort they had in the Soviet Union and we are seeing again in Putin’s Russia. There, the opposition was labeled “enemies” and dealt with severely. Existing laws were used to undermine free speech. New laws were written to concentrate power at the top. Eventually, every office holder was in the Soviet system a political appointee beholding to the governor, not to the people. Simply, the will of the people and laws were subverted to conform to the will of the ruling elite. It is again that way in Russia and it seems the Republicans in Indianapolis would like to corral power in the same way as Putin. That is what Teddy White was talking about.

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