Here's a poser for all those who disapproved of state senator Rosalind Kurita's vote last January that ousted the venerable John Wilder, her fellow Democrat, as Tennessee's lieutenant governor and allowed Republican Ron Ramsey to win that office. Kurita has now managed to shepherd close to passage a bill to change the way the state's constitutional officers are selected. So how do we feel about it, ladies and gents?
Kurita's bill, which was scheduled for a climactic Senate vote this week, proposes a constitutional amendment. Should it pass, now or later, and go on to be approved by a popular referendum, as the state constitution requires, it would change the way several offices — attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, and, yes, lieutenant governor — are chosen. All of them would be elected by the people, meaning that it would henceforth be impossible for a rogue legislator — which is how Kurita is perceived by many of her fellow Democrats — to bargain with an aspiring Senate Speaker/lieutenant governor for his or her own advantage. Rightly or wrongly, that's what Kurita, now Senate Speaker Pro Tem, has been accused of.
We approve. Right now, none of the aforementioned offices — each looming large in the workings of state government — are directly responsible to the people. The Senate chooses the lieutenant governor — first in line of succession to the governor — the attorney general is appointed by the state Supreme Court, and a joint session of the Tennessee House and Senate elects the treasurer, secretary of state, and comptroller. In other words, by political means but not by the people.
Not only do we approve of that change in state government, we are inclined to oppose an opposite prospect in local county government, where the courts have opened up an option allowing the offices of sheriff, trustee, and assessor, among others, to be appointed. Luckily, that change would itself require a popular vote to take effect.
Yes, voters can be fickle, but sadly, as various recent scandals have shown us, they are more to be trusted, it would surely seem, than wheeling-and-dealing officials themselves.
It is almost always bad form to speak ill of the dead, especially when the person in question is a revered Christian leader. But this is the Reverend Jerry Falwell we're talking about, the man whose reputation as a fundamentalist TV minister and architect of America's Moral Majority was conspicuously not built on a platform of love.
During the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, Falwell stood shoulder to shoulder with the segregationists, publicly remarking that he questioned the "sincerity of people like Martin Luther King." Falwell wasted no time in blaming the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 on pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays, lesbians, the ACLU, the American Way, and anyone else who has ever tried to "secularize America."
"I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen,'" Falwell said, while the subterranean fires of ground zero still raged out of control.
To be sure, Falwell may have done some good in his 73 years as a minister, political activist, and college president. Let's hope the good reverend got himself right with the God he so frequently exploited.