Skip navigation.
The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Two kinds of laws

On the legislative front, there is sometimes a great disparity. On the one hand, State Senator Rodney Ellis filed a bill on Wednesday which would prevent state investments from buying into companies that do business with the Sudanese government. On the other, State Representative Charlie Howard authored legislation which would ban breasts and buttocks on billboards. Alliteration aside, this bears discussion.

So the ultimate service that one can hope to achieve, the most one can hope to give of himself, is to be best used for the greater good. Ideally, legislators and public servants would get up in the morning and seek to do the most good for the most people. The wish is that they would look in the mirror and say, "Today I'm going to change things," and then go out and do it.

In saying this I don't mean to imply that one of these bills is inherently better than the other. But I think it implies something fundamental about values. Democrats have, in the past, been shut out of the values circuit, and this has always been a result of Republican spin. It is certainly smart, competitive politics to define your opponent as something undesirable, something less - it isn't good, or nice, but it is smart. Every Democrat I know works hard and cares about his neighbor - I would in fact argue that caring about your neighbor is a key requirement to buying into the Democratic agenda.

But the Republicans claimed to be the party of values, unabashedly, and Representative Howard's proposed bill is indicative of that. Both bills stand up for values, and both men undoubtedly believe that when they hang it up at the end of the day, they went out and did the most good they could.

Of course, it isn't always like that. Sometimes you file a bill because you have to, or to get some business done, or to honor someone, or to make the Bolo Tie the official tie of the state. It doesn't save lives and it doesn't shore up the moral defenses of those you represent. Not every bill can seek to right a grievous wrong. There is nothing wrong with Rep. Howard's bill - it isn't evil or bad. Nor was Ellis alone in his proposed law - he was joined in its authoring by Republican Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale. There are no absolutes in politics, and even with today's partisan rancor, no extremes are absolutely true of either side.

I chose these bills and placed them against each other on purpose, and it isn't really fair. Obviously against anything else, a bill to punish the Sudanese government for the atrocities in Darfur would look like the moral high ground. Many GOP initiatives play to an idea of moral practice and excellence rather than actual excellence itself. Democrats aren't immune to this - notice the Sexy Cheerleading bill of yore - but Senator Ellis' legislation is an example of what lawmakers can do, what they should seek to be doing every chance they get.

Will it pass? I doubt it. But I think the effort is worth it. The effort in a righteous cause is always worth it.

Syndicate content