The situation involving South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson has reminded me of a few things, but the one that concerns me the most is the lack of civics knowledge among the electorate. Within the past few days, here are some of the greatest misses of those who think they know what they're talking about:
- A faux liberal in a chatroom told me that Senate rules prohibit the Governor of South Dakota from taking action. They don't, as they don't extend to the selection of Senators. That detail is handled by the states, and the Governor controls the state. Which brings us to this chestnut...
- Another faux liberal defended Illinois Senator Barack Obama by saying he had as much experience as George W. Bush did. When I pressed him to tell me the name of the bill Obama signed into law, he couldn't, but maintained a Senator has more experience running a government than a Governor.
- On the Washington Post's message board, a poster quoted Wyoming law as a means to show what the Governor was required to do should Johnson be unable to participate in the Senate. One tiny problem: Johnson is from South Dakota, so Wyoming law wouldn't apply.
- Another chatroom denison suggested that there be a law forcing the Governor to pick a replacement Senator from the same party as the Senator being replaced because the voters voted in the Senator and the people's will should be done. Of course, the passage of such a bill would remove the will of the people from the equation...
And there are plenty more. Pretty scary knowing that these folks can vote, huh?
Listen, I know keeping up with the workings of government is less exciting than Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" read by Ben Stein reprising his role from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but it's essential to making informed decisions. Politicians count on us being uninformed so they can take away a few more of our liberties and line their pockets accordingly. Let's not forget that before the election, polls showed that many Americans don't even know the three branches of government and what they do. But tell them to recount the twists and turns on "Lost" and they're golden.
And if the adults can't be counted on to do their homework, what kind of message does that send to their children? Not a very good one, I'm afraid. I saw the problem in the 8th grade when I saw many of my fellow students struggle with basic concepts of how our government worked. And we've only slipped further and further behind in recent years. Give a kid a cell phone or a computer and they can do marvels. Give them a multiple choice test on the government and they freeze.
So what can we do? Get off our duffs and learn a thing or two about how our great government project works. Then, we need to impart that knowledge to as many people as possible. Hopefully then we can have a government we can be proud of instead of one we merely tolerate.