Monday, July 8, 2013

Rokita and the Limits of Democratic Discourse

Dave Bangert wrote eloquently in Sunday's J&C about the problem that eats at our legislative processes: the ideological intransigence of one party (you can figure out which one) that prevents them from even considering another perspective on questions that are vital to our interests as a country and do, in fact, have more than one side to them. Bangert illustrates this principle with Congressman Todd Rokita's Congress on Your Corner session last week:
"During a question-and-answer time with a West Lafayette teen — one who had been part of a contingent from the local Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun control group — Rokita was pressed on his frequently stated belief that gun ownership is a God-given right protected by the Second Amendment. . . . After some muddy attempts to question Rokita’s use of faith in governing, the question came back to this: You may have a right to defend yourself, but when it comes to gun control, isn’t it the job of the government to set and control those rights? Rokita salted the question: 'No. See, that’s why you’ll never be able to communicate with me this way, because you have a fundamental different perspective on who gives someone the rights found in our Constitution.'"
So Rep. Rokita's belief makes it impossible to speak to the issue with a constituent? How can a democracy run on that basis? Or as Bangert frames the problem:
"So when a constituent asks about how better background checks on gun purchases might fit in with that God-given right and a congressman implies the question itself is proof that there’s no reason to continue the conversation, we have a bigger problem than just a debate over where the Second Amendment begins and ends. . . . Can we just talk here? Apparently only if we’re fundamentally on the same page."
Read Bangert's column here.