Thursday, May 10, 2007

ellsworth's turn

yesterday, congressman joe donnelly guest-blogged on bilerico to explain his "no" vote against the hate crimes bill. i posted my response here on my blog, and wilson posted one of the key passages to the comments at bilerico. disappointingly, donnelly did not participate in the comment section of his post, contrary to expectations, so there's no way to know whether he even read any of the comments or simply did a "hit and run" blog post.

today, representative brad ellsworth takes his turn guest-posting at bilerico, trying to explain his own "no" vote. his post is quite similar to donnelly's and employs many of the same arguments—"most violent crimes are based on hate", i'm obeying "the wishes of an overwhelming number of 8th District constituents". i already addressed these arguments in my previous post, so i won't go over them again here. i'll only hit the new stuff here:

This was a difficult decision for me because I did not want my opposition to the bill to be perceived as an endorsement of violence against the gay community.

of course, the easiest way to ensure this would have been to vote "yes"—that would have been a clear vote against violence in the gay community. as the american psychological association explains, "Most hate crimes are carried out by otherwise law-abiding young people who see little wrong with their actions." these perpetrators are so blinded by prejudice that they actually believe they're doing a good thing when they go out and harrass, beat, rape, or kill members of the LGBT community. voting "no" on the hate crimes bill sends them a coded message that they're right.

As I was making this decision, I contacted Sheriffs and county prosecutors in all 18 counties of the 8th District because I wanted to hear from the people who investigate and prosecute violent crimes every day. I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer. I believe their responses were sincere.

on first read, this seems to be saying that all ellsworth's sheriffs and deputies told him to vote no. but pay close attention to the way this sentence is phrased: "I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool for them, and those I heard from were unanimous that this legislation would not make our communities safer."

"I asked them whether this legislation would be a helpful tool": rep ellsworth doesn't ask whether passing the bill is the right thing to do, or whether it's a good law. he asked whether it would be a "helpful tool", or in other words, whether they would pursue and prosecute more hate crimes if the bill passes. (of course, the point of having a federal hate crimes bill is that is allows the FBI to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in those cases where local law enforcement is not interested in doing it.)

then, in response, "those i heard from" (meaning "the ones who actually called me back") told him that the bill wouldn't "make our communities safer". they didn't necessarily say it was a bad bill or that he should vote against it, only that it wouldn't make things safer (in the same way, i imagine, that we still have murders despite the laws against murder). in fact, every one of them could have said, "i think it's a good bill and you should vote for it, but it won't necessarily make our communities safer" and ellsworth's claim would still be technically true.

at any rate, this goes back to what i discussed last time: is it better for a representative to vote the will of his constituents, even if they are wrong? or should he vote the right way and risk angering the people who voted him into office? i tend to believe he should do the right thing regardless of what his constituents think, but rep ellsworth is explicitly arguing the opposite. (once again we'll ignore the evidence that suggests that a large proportion of ellsworth's constituents probably actually support the legislation.)

all in all, i'm unimpressed by the two congressmen's justifications for their vote, but that's as i expected. at the least, they did agree to guest-post and face some stiff questioning from indiana's LGBT community... though i hope that rep ellsworth will stick around and participate in the comments thread under his post, as rep donnelly has not done.

1 comment:

Bil Browning said...

The Congressman's Press Secretary has responded to the thread currently. I hope that we get something more substantial later. I think the comments on Ellsworth's entry have been a little kinder too. Donnelly took the brunt of the anger while Ellsworth has gotten more reasoning...