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Jim DeMint recognizes a separation of powers

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Questions of jurisdiction are critical in the government of our republic. Who is responsible for what issues? What things are responsibilities of the federal government, and which part of the federal government? What things are issues for state or local government? What should be left for individuals to be responsible for themselves?

Yet this distinction often gets completely lost on voters and politicians. I’ve got a problem, and what’s Congress going to do to solve it? The politicians are always expected to have an answer. Unfortunately, they almost always do.

I was particularly pleased, then, to catch the Meet the Press debate on October 17th between Jim DeMint and Inez Tenenbaum, candidates for US Senate from South Carolina. Specifically, I was impressed with how DeMint handled one line of questioning from Russert.

Russert was basically trying to nail DeMint from several different angles as being some form of homophobic, specifically pulling up a recent quote in which DeMint said, “If a person is a practicing homosexual, they should not be teaching in our schools.”

REP. DeMINT: Well, I apologize for that remark, because I really regret distracting from the main issues of this debate.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, do you apologize because it’s a distraction or do you apologize for what you said?

REP. DeMINT: No, I apologize for distracting from the real issues of this debate. This is…

MR. RUSSERT: So do you–wait, but let’s clarify. Do you believe that gays should be able to teach in the public schools of South Carolina?

REP. DeMINT: I believe that’s a local school board issue
***************************

Pressed on the point at least half a dozen times with the full Russert effect, DeMint stuck to the same answer. He apologized specifically for having commented on something that was not his business as a federal candidate, insisting that the hiring of teachers was the concern of local school boards and not the concern of a congressman. It was not his place to even have an opinion on this issue.

Of course, one could question the purity of his motives. This might be considered a way of trying to back up after having stepped in it. Whatever it took for him to get the separation of powers religion though, I’m glad he’s reading out of the same constitutional hymnal here as me.

I’m just happy for the rare sight of a candidate recognizing that there are problems and issues in the land which are not the province of the US Congress. First issue when a new problem is presented to Congress: Is this the responsibility of the Congress or the federal government in the first place? If it’s not specifically listed in the US Constitution, then it’s somebody else’s issue.

Who should we hire to teach our schools? Let’s see, where does the US Constitution give Congress responsibility for schools? Correct answer: nowhere. Therefore, Jim DeMint had The Correct answer: It’s not Congress’ job. I’m staying out of it.

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  • boomcrashbaby

    Al, I told a story once here and my apologies to you if you’ve already heard it, I forget who I told it to.

    I was in a conversation awhile back on another site and a woman said if she found ‘Heather has Two Mommies’ in the school library, she would sue the educational system blind. My daughter will enter preschool in about a year. At some point, it could be very likely that there will be two kids in class side by side, with a parent on the one hand who will sue if there is any recognition of my family and a parent on the other hand (me) who will sue if there is NO recognition of my family. Either way, the school system sounds like it’s going to have a headache in the future.

    I believe in the right of the parent to be able to choose the school, but I do not believe in majority rule when it comes to employment as you would have it.

    If we ever have to stand before the court for that reason I mentioned above, I can only hope that the court would come down on my side and say that society (via the public school system and ‘societal education’) degrading my family via an ‘unfit for employment’ status is not what America intends for it’s citizens. I don’t think I want your America.

    A gay person who teaches English or Geometry is no more likely to educate about his orientation than a straight English or Geometry teacher would. There is nothing to fear. I do not support the right to discriminate based on orientation.

    You say that the libertarian party suports same-sex marriage, but you waste no opportunity telling me again and again how a gay person can get f*cked over by your ideology.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Boom, not just a gay person, but anybody can get f’d over, but that’s not a function of libertarian ideology. That’s just LIFE. Life isn’t fair, and you don’t always get your turn. It is the biggest point of libertarian or conservative political wisdom that government can’t solve every problem or right every wrong, and a lot of damage can be done by trying.

    But this post is not about homosexual issues at all. It’s about jurisdiction. Limited jurisdictions for different parts of government protect the rights of homosexuals just like anyone else.

    You might not like just how this particular cookie crumbles, but I bet you could imagine plenty of scenarios where you would be real happy to say that a government has no jurisdiction to make a law.

    For example, I’d bet you’d take sides with the state of California against the imposition of federal drug laws directly contrary to the express wishes of the California electorate for medical marijuana. Good policy or bad, it’s not the proper place of the federal government to override the state, as there is NO constitutional authority whatsoever for federal drug laws.

    Also, note that I didn’t at all say that I agreed with DeMint’s quoted statement about homosexual teachers. Now in a private school, I’d call that a question of freedom of association. I would not, for example, consider it appropriate to FORCE Christian parochial schools to hire homosexual teachers.

    I would personally judge them to be wrong, but would not presume to force that belief on them. In this case, it is their right to be wrong. You should have the freedom to associate or not associate with anyone you wish. That’s a pretty high value in my book. It will generally trump almost anything else.

    With government schools, however, different legal and constitutional standards apply. I don’t lay claim to any deep legal knowledge on these specific issues, but basic equality before the law does apply.

    Private individuals might have to be tolerated in their personal prejudices on their own property to some extent, but I have far stricter standards to demand of government. They generally have no right under the constitution nor reason to make irrelevant discrimination against individuals.

    As my hero Barry Goldwater said in support of allowing gays in the military, it’s none of the government’s damned business who you’re sleeping with.

    It’s just that it might not be the job of the federal government to police how that applies to every local situation throughout the country. Exactly who gets to make what decisions is a really important issue.

    The more broadly those decision making powers are spread out, the better we usually are. Also, the more locally the decisions are made, the better we usually are. For starters, it’s not that difficult to get to your state capitol and grab a legislator by the lapel if he’s out of line.

    On the other hand, try getting an appointment to see Evan Bayh.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Indeed, thinking again, this case with DeMint is a perfect example for you as a gay person of the benefits of separation of powers. Russert’s point was to show that DeMint was at least somewhat anti-gay. Therefore, it works to your gay advantage that the anti-gay congressman wants to stay out of it.

    Further, if you do have employment issues with the schools, would you rather try getting something from congressmen in DC, or would you rather deal with school board members whose meetings you could easily attend?

  • boomcrashbaby

    Boom, not just a gay person, but anybody can get f’d over, but that’s not a function of libertarian ideology.

    not a function, just a consequence.

    That’s just LIFE. Life isn’t fair, and you don’t always get your turn. It is the biggest point of libertarian or conservative political wisdom that government can’t solve every problem or right every wrong, and a lot of damage can be done by trying.

    Al, I can take not getting this or that because someone doesn’t like the fact that I’m gay. That happens to me all the time.

    We’ve gone over this numerous times so let me say yes, sometimes when the government tries to fix something, there are sometimes unintended negative consequences. Any time that happens, the program/law whatever, should be open to modification or we need to accept the fact that the positive the program does, outweighs the negative.

    Al, I’ve gone over with you numerous times the reasoning that shapes my ideology. The assaults, the attempts on my life, the police brutality, etc.

    No, telling me “that’s life” and to get the government out of protecting me is not an ideology I want to get into.

    You might not like just how this particular cookie crumbles, but I bet you could imagine plenty of scenarios where you would be real happy to say that a government has no jurisdiction to make a law.

    Actually, Al, I cannot think of a one that would offset the consequences of a society you offer.

    For example, I’d bet you’d take sides with the state of California against the imposition of federal drug laws directly contrary to the express wishes of the California electorate for medical marijuana.

    This could be one example but I consider it not worth the oppression I would encounter should the government get out of the business of protecting me from societies hatred.

    Indeed, thinking again, this case with DeMint is a perfect example for you as a gay person of the benefits of separation of powers. Russert’s point was to show that DeMint was at least somewhat anti-gay. Therefore, it works to your gay advantage that the anti-gay congressman wants to stay out of it.

    Yes, have me stand before the homophobic public school board who wants to teach creationism and other biblical items as fact, who wants to teach that acceptance or any positive acknowledgement of me as a worthwhile human being is morally wrong, oh yeah, Al, this is just sounding better and better.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Now Boom, you’ve got to know better than this:

    Al, I’ve gone over with you numerous times the reasoning that shapes my ideology. The assaults, the attempts on my life, the police brutality, etc.

    No, telling me “that’s life” and to get the government out of protecting me is not an ideology I want to get into.

    There’s a BIG difference between physically assaulting someone versus simply not wanting to associate. You have every right to demand that people not be allowed to beat you up and mistreat you. You do NOT have the right to demand that people accept you. Those are obviously hugely different things.

    You object to Christian school boards that dislike homosexuals. That’s an unfortunate scenario you describe. However, the choice is not between that versus a perfect world where everyone plays nice.

    In this case, it’s a choice between adversaries. Would you rather have to confront Jesse Helms, or deal with a local school board? Also, dealing with local authorities, you have much more ability to put yourself in a community that will work for you.

    For example, you could move to San Francisco, where there are obviously very minimal local problems for gays. You could get a job teaching school there without having to answer to Jim DeMint.

    Whereas if we just decide that your desire for “equality” trumps any and all issues of separation of powers, then it’s probably not going to end up working out well for you. OK, so you got the US Congress or some judge to make the local schools hire you. Then a couple of years from now, perhaps courts will decide that you can’t refuse to hire someone to work for you just because they’re members of Aryan Nation.

    In short, life is full of conflicting values and lifestyles. You have a right to be gay. Other people have a right not to like that. The basic compromise so that we can live together is that neither of you have the right to force the other person to do what you want- even if you think you’re completely right and the other guy is pure evil.

  • boomcrashbaby

    You object to Christian school boards that dislike homosexuals.

    My objection was to public school systems, not private.

    For example, you could move to San Francisco, where there are obviously very minimal local problems for gays. You could get a job teaching school there without having to answer to Jim DeMint.

    There are probably what, 500,000 to a million teachers in this country? I don’t know but I imagine it would be a lot. Assuming that the gay community is 5% of the population and there are a million teachers (not knowing exact numbers here), that would mean there are what, 50,000 gay teachers? S.F. doesn’t need that many teachers.

    Tell me Al, if you were a business owner and you wanted to hire only men, and you wanted to NOT hire women SOLELY because of their gender, you believe you should be entitled to do that, right? Let’s put your answer on record here, Mr. Candidate.

    In short, life is full of conflicting values and lifestyles. You have a right to be gay. Other people have a right not to like that.

    Yes, but my ability to get employment should not be subjected to another person’s prejudice on a large scale. If John’s Fish and Bait Shop doesn’t want me to work there, I can get another job down the road. If an entire public school system doesn’t want me to teach ANYWHERE in the community, my options become much more limited and I become relegated to a second class citizen in that community.

    I just don’t agree with your rationale here, and I don’t have enough time to elaborate my thoughts clearly, I’m getting rushed and hopefully I can expand on this later tonight. If on voting day, people put your beliefs into practice then yes, I have to live with it, but I will continue to fight against it because I believe it’s wrong. But trust me Al, nobody has to tell a gay person that life isn’t fair.