A Fable of Congress and Progressive Action
Once upon a time there was a Senator from Iowa, who happened to be in office when a man shot some children in a school with a gun his mother had let him use. The country was shocked, and some proposed laws making it more difficult to buy the type of gun he used. The Senator objected. The bills did not pass. A little later, someone else used a different kind of gun to kill some other children. See, said the Senator, you can’t prevent murder by restricting guns; that won’t work. And it violates the constitution, he said. Let’s give up on it.
A little while later, a driver in Iowa, driving at 80 miles an hour in a 65 mile an hour zone, swerved off an interstate and hit and killed a child. See, said the Senator, speed limits don’t prevent a person from speeding, as everyone knows who’s ever driven a car. Besides, interstate highways are used by people traveling between states, and the Constitution protects the right of persons to travel between states. Speed limits don’t work, and they may violate the Constitution. Let’s give up on them. .
The Environmental Protection Agency was about to adopt new regulations controlling automobile emissions, to protect fresh air and moderate climate change affects. But, the Senator said, that won’t work; China does pollution with world-wide effects, we can’t control it just here. Environmental controls just here won’t work, , and we can’t make China abide by them. Let’s give up on them, the Senator said.
Everybody knows our schools aren’t teaching all children to read, write, calculate, or think, as well as they should. We’re requiring children to go to school for a particular number of hours a day, days in a year, to get them to learn, and testing them till they do. But forcing kids to learn doesn’t work, the Senator said. And besides it restricts their freedom. Let’s give up on the attempt, he said.
The right to vote is protected by the Constitution, and some laws are designed to implement that right. But in some voting districts lines are so long, hours so restricted, and voting procedures so unclear, that some citizens are not in fact able to vote. See, said the Senator, having laws protecting the right to vote don’t work; we shouldn’t make election officials go through a lot of paperwork to show they’re complying. Voting rights laws don’t work. And they go beyond the Constitution. Let’s give up on them.
We want, said the Senator, every citizen to be free to do whatever he or, to some extent, also she, wants to do, and to make of themselves whatever they want. Forcing them to compete with non-citizens is unfair. Our laws shouldn’t allow immigrants to become citizens. Laws have to avoid having immigrants compete with our citizens for jobs. Immigration reform won’t work. And it shouldn’t give foreigners rights the Constitution doesn’t give them. We should give up on it, the Senator said..
The people of Iowa listened to what the Senator said. They thought about it a while, and its implications sank in. They really wanted gun controls, speed limits on highways, less pollution, better schools, full voting rights for all citizens, a fair chance for immigrants to become citizens. What the Senator is saying doesn’t work for us, the people said. It eviscerates what the Constituting stands for. If things don’t work, let’s fix them, not give up on them. Let’s give up on the Senator instead, they said.
The next November, they did.