Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Witch hunt

Well, here we go.  Fire up the torches. Betsy Russell is reporting that Rep. Julie Ellsworth*, R-Boise, introduced a bill to amend House rules to say that any member of leadership who is convicted of a DUI or drug offense would lose his or her leadership post.

As Lynn Luker asked, by pick out just DUIs?  Why not any of the other various misdemeanors?  I'll tell you why, because "drinking" is considered by many in this state to be morally wrong.  When you get caught inappropriately drinking, you lose the moral right to be a leader, goes the thinking.

There are folks all around the country who view this as a moral issue.  They think it is a moral failing to drink at all, and especially to excess.  But, there are more of them in these parts, and they're known as Mormons.  No, not all Mormons think this way, and no, the church doesn't instigate legislative jihads against drinkers (preferring, I guess, to leave that up to MADD).

But, it's pretty easy to connect an effort to punish immoral drinking with the beliefs of many LDS Idahoans, and conclude that Ellsworth is attempting to institutionalize that belief.  I mean after all, how many good Mormons in our legislature are going to get zinged by this new rule?  Zero, would be a pretty good guess.  So not only does it codify that belief, it is not likely to affect those holding the belief.

My argument admittedly falls down when you include drugs, because Mormons don't seem to have included that in their guidance about what not to consume if you what to be a good member of the church.  But then, I'm not saying this is an LDS thing, specifically. 

I just don't like the idea of taking a value judgment held by a good number of Idahoans, though not a majority, and making it a litmus test for political leadership.  People convicted of DUI will pay whatever price our legal system exacts; they shouldn't have to pay a higher price just because they're a legislative leader.

Last point.  At some point, a DUI is no longer a reflection of getting too drunk and screwing up, it's evidence of poor judgment.  One DUI can be a screw up; more than one, bad judgment, because you didn't learn your lesson.  That could be a DUI related reason to remove a leader, but it would be due to judgment, not morality.

*I have no idea of Ellsworths religious beliefs, and don't think it matters.


Idahoan said...

Oh, c'mon. Your argument that this is some politically easy way to please the Mormon vote is not convincing. First, the legislator who is quoted at poking holes in Rep. Ellsworth's logic is none other than Rep. Lynn Luker, a well-known member of the LDS Church. Second, it's patently obvious that what's going on is simply that Rep. Ellsworth is looking for an easy and painless way to mollify voters who are still upset that Rep. McGee suffered too little for his summer DUI. It's political cover against the barbs of the all-government-is-corrupt wing of her party.

In the end, the law is just political theater -- a silly law aimed at giving the party-in-power political cover for not doing something to McGee. It will do nothing to dissuade future DUI's. And it's certainly not aimed at just pleasing teetotalers.

Alan said...

I agree, it is political theatre and will be ineffectual. I just don't like that it perpetuates the idea that drinking is immoral and deserving of punishment.

Ostensibly aimed at drinking AND driving, true, but I still think it stigmatizes drinking alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Ellsworth is a graduate of BYU.