Here They Go Again
The GOP wants to amend itself into solidified power
Let’s start with a little, beautiful, so-well-crafted Twitter story. The elements: a sugar glider (that’s a tiny little marsupial), stowed away and forgotten, and the tension of possible discovery during a doctor’s visit. Check it out:
What we’ve got here is a perfectly condensed character and plot study. And it turns out well (in part because, after all, it’s a cute little sugar glider!). The tension, though palpable, releases (and always would release) in a happy, wholesome direction. But the story works because it follows the pathway of our known story physics. A character. A problem. Tension on how the problem will be solved. A solution of that tension. And it’s so heartwarming! We need heartwarming stories these days, to counterbalance the rest.
On Political Stories
Why do I start here this week? Well, because story matters … and I’ve promised that I’d say a word or two (or a hundred) about my current book project. It’s a memoir, because that’s my main vibe as a writer. And it’s a political story, because that’s what I’ve recently been involved in.
But tensions! Resolutions! Characters! Call it a campaign book (because it is), one that follows the linear timeline of running, and losing, an election (Sad face, y’know?). But more than that, I’m thinking and writing through the idea of stories and politics and our neck of the woods. You might remember this line from my campaign: we live the stories we tell, and the ones told about us.
There’s no doubt in my mind that one of our chief political problems in rural PA, and really in the whole country, is that we are living stories that bad faith politicians prefer. We keep getting stuck with, really, the worst kind of elected officials because the partisan story-telling machine has gotten so good at feeding us false narratives. It’s why we’re never satisfied with the folks we elect, and why we keep electing folks who will do nothing other than disappoint us. And why we remain at each other’s throats even though we’re all suffering.
A Big Story You Might Not Be Hearing Enough About
This week, the PA Legislature spent a lot of time prepping a whole bunch of Constitutional amendments that the right-wing leadership is trying to hustle though. Amendments have to be approved by voter referendum, and by putting the squeeze on, the right-wingers can get these on the May primary ballot. Which is to say, they can have referendums on their ridiculous Constitutional amendments in the super-low turnout off-year municipal primaries.
What’s the story there? Why do that? Because several of the amendments are awful. Truly awful. Only a true partisan can love ‘em, and partisans (particularly right-wing partisans) are the likely voters in this primary, if history holds. So the effort to force these amendments through now is an attempt to sidestep the bulk of Pennsylvania voters. Because if lots of people were voting, the bad amendments would be doomed.
One of the big ones…
…is HB 55/SB 2, which is primarily a bill to limit the PA Governor’s emergency declarations to a max of 21 days, unless the legislature votes to extend it. That means, of course, that the right-wing leadership of the legislative GOP had its collective underwear so bunched about Gov. Wolf’s Covid emergency response that they decided to amend the Constitution to get back at him.
This new restriction on emergency declarations is a terrible idea, for many reasons. Two quick ones: 1) the legislature already can overturn emergency declarations if it has a 2/3 majority and thus a veto-proof majority, which means it can overturn such a declaration if there is real bi-partisan support for doing so. That the right-wingers couldn’t get a 2/3 vote to end the necessary Covid emergency declaration makes it clear they are amending the Constitution simply to consolidate partisan control; 2) Every two years the legislative session ends in November and is on a no-voting recess until the early-January swearing in of members. That means if an emergency declaration hits the 21 day limit in that interim, it cannot be renewed. And if that means, say, losing federal disaster funds…well at least the right-wingers get to tell the Governor what to do, right? The point here is one of hidden consequences. To be stuck with a Constitutional amendment that has been rushed through, and hampers our ability to deal with emergencies is a seriously negative consequence.
As the Keystone Progress Alliance wrote this week, “instead of addressing Pennsylvania’s small business crisis, Republicans are trying to deflect attention from their own inaction by continuing to blame the economic crisis on Governor Wolf’s emergency orders. That charge is economically illiterate and absurd.”
The nutshell: HB 55/SB2 both passed, with all of our local legislators (Brooks, Rapp, Roae, Wentling) voting for them.
It’s a Messy Amendment, Too
The authors of HB55/SB2 yoked the emergency powers language with language extending protection against ethnic and racial discrimination, too. Strange, since these issues are unrelated to the emergency powers clauses. It’s political gaming, because the authors are trying to trick voters into passing the referendum because they agree with the equity language and might thus overlook the apparently bureaucratic emergency declaration limitation language. During discussions on the House floor this week, since equal protection clauses were in play, an amendment (to the amendment) was proposed, extending those protections to LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians. That failed on party lines, with all of our local legislators voting against. I think you know that story well.
A Strange No Vote
Another amendment likely headed to ballot referendum would open up a two year window during which victims of childhood sexual abuse could file charges even if statutes of limitations have run out. In the House, for some reason 15 members voted against that window, without explanation. For your scorecards: Reps. Rapp and Wentling voted to open the two year window and support victims; Rep. Roae voted against. A couple of constituents directly asked him on his Facebook page why he voted no. Thus far, he has given no response.
The Worst One…Might Be Delayed
You know how the nut job Trump enablers kept throwing lawsuits at the wall about the 2020 election? And how the PA Supreme Court wasn’t having it? (Nor was the US Supreme Court, but that’s another story…but thank goodness). Well, the not so good old GOP in the PA legislature figured the best response would be to create districts for the superior and supreme courts, thus setting up a mechanism to gerrymander the state courts and solidify right wing control via the courts. By Constitutional amendment, of course. The good(ish) news is that, so far this, umm, month, that amendment hasn’t made it to a floor vote, though it has made it out of committee. So probably that means we won’t have to worry about this particular amendment nonsense on the spring primary, at least. Probably. But it’s not dead by any means, so we should pay close attention. They have until February 18 to pass it in time for the primary ballot inclusion.
If You’re Running in 2022: You Need a Logo
For sure, you should be thinking a lot about your platform, and about how to reach voters. But you also ought to start thinking about art and branding. A distinctive logo doesn’t make or break a campaign, but it certainly helps you look legit and serious. I’ve seen a few unserious candidates toss out crappy logos, with low on-screen resolution and hasty at-home design. People notice. Art matters.
Remember the Sugar Glider
Cute, yeah? Could be the start of a logo.