Guest Post from Jon Elrod: Indiana the Republic, and the Rump Parliament

The United States is not a simple democracy, nor is the State of Indiana.  The People with some exceptions, do not vote on the laws that govern us.  It is a constitutional republic; a representative democracy with a bicameral legislature.

In our system of democracy, only the identity of our representatives are decided at the ballot box.  Our laws are decided on the floor of the General Assembly.  The People’s vote may be cast at the ballot box, but the People’s right of self-government is exercised by the ayes and nays in the General Assembly.

The vote of the legislative majority is the vote of the People.  The right of the legislative minority is limited to debates, votes, and entries of protest. 

Quorum is intended to ensure that the majority does not pass laws without the minority’s presence and opportunity to debate.  Quorum is not a concept intended to permit the minority to defeat the vote of the majority  The Indiana Constitution permits those assembled to “compel the attendance of absent members.” 

The Indiana Democrats are not exercising a legislative right.  They are violating the Constitution.  They have removed themselves from the jurisdiction of the State of Indiana so that Indiana authorities cannot compel their attendance.  They are fugitives actively avoiding enforcement of the Constitution.  

But they are worse than fugitives.  They are undermining our democratic system.  The ballot-box is only half of our system of self-government.  Refusing quorum in the legislature is the equivalent of cancelling election day. 

In times past and future, a majority might run roughshod over the procedural rights of the minority, and abuse of quorum should be lauded as responsible civil disobedience.  But that is not the case today.

Since the Farewell Address of George Washington, the world has looked to America in awe at the peaceful and democratic transition of political power.  What a poor reflection of that legacy.  Rather than lay down his gavel to the will of the People, Pat Bauer and his rump parliament issue demands from a Best Western in Illinois.


About Washington Street Politics
Covering policy and politics from end to end of Washington Street in Indianapolis

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