It’s become an all too common strategy in politics, to taunt absurd laws by either passing or submitting a bill that mocks the current law, or by over-enforcement of the law or putting into place draconian consequences.
While the subject of debt ceilings won’t come up until the next president takes office, sequestration was supposed to be the so-called ‘nuclear’ option, a line that would be so damaging to cross that the politicians wouldn’t dare do it. But they did, and at least on the surface it looked as if nothing too bad really happened. But the point was it was a stunt, a gimmick used to garner public opinion around forcing your opponent to your political will.
In Kentucky, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D) is taking her shots at the state’s abortion law, entering a bill for consideration that would require men to have a note from their wife in order to fill prescriptions of Viagra or other sexual enhancement drugs.
With a straight face, she claims that this is a ‘men’s health issue,’ but even within the same interviews she points out the ludicrous nature of the state dabbling into women’s health issues, but not men’s.
(S)ometimes it works -- and sometimes it works so well that you'd think it was never a ploy to begin with.
It’s absurd, and she knows it — and she also knows these bills have little to no chance of actually advancing.
So why is she doing it?
Because sometimes it works — and sometimes it works so well that you’d think it was never a ploy to begin with.
For instance, Kansas was home to some of the most backwards liquor laws in the nation until the late 1970s and early 1980s, with change coming largely from the over-enforcement of the law by then Attorney General Vern Miller (D).
Kansas was home to prohibition crusader Carry Nation, in a state that had begun prohibition 40 years earlier than the 18th Amendment. Kansas didn’t formally change state laws until almost 1950 to match the requirements of the 21st Amendment, and even then had in place extremely restrictive laws — like a ban on liquor sold “by the drink.”
While Miller never admitted to doing this, it was always suspected that he over-enforced the law to show its absurdity and to act as a catalyst for change, including: suing airlines into compliance to not sell alcoholic beverages while flying over Kansas, raiding lodges and church functions, at least 20 raids on the University of Kansas, and at least one raid on a passenger train, arresting all of the staff for violating the state liquor laws.
In 2016, what Marzian is doing is not nearly as dazzling as a pistol-wielding attorney general who liked to go out on raids with his marshals, but she’s still employing a legitimate political tactic — showing the absurdity of the law by trying to universally apply their principles.
In a republican form of democracy, this is often the only voice the minority position has on an issue: to inform, to make headlines, and even make fun of the nature of their opponent’s stance. We live in a country of majority rule, but with protections in place to preserve the minority position’s right to dissent and challenge the laws.
And while to some this might seem to be a colossal waste of time, this is American politics at its finest — when we can peaceably debate all aspects, and even when losing in the final votes we can still have a voice (even at times a comical one) in the political process.