That’s my big toe you see there. I’m being very careful to test the temperature before I wade into the current legislative session. Unlike some people in and out of newsrooms throughout this state, I’m not going to plunge myself into these particularly icy waters. I prefer to enter slowly, feet and ankles, knees and hips, catching my breath before finally submerging myself and coming up all wet.
It’ll happen, but I’m just being careful starting out.
When it comes to politics, most people jump right in. They feel they know what’s right and what’s wrong. They may not see that huge rock that’s lingering just underneath the surface, and jumping in, sometimes head first, can cause serious damage.
But that doesn’t stop some politicians. Men and women of conviction — those who will “fight” for what they believe in, those who prefer to hold firm instead of compromise — seem to be the ones who garner the most attention in Washington D.C. and in Little Rock.
Enter Sen. Jason Rapert, who we have seen doesn’t just jump in, he cliff dives. Agree with him or not, Rapert does not tread lightly. He charges ahead with the force of a young William Wallace. And the matter he is championing — a ban on most abortions at 12 weeks — is the most emotional one that has been discussed, argued about and fought in the past 40 years. But maybe Rapert could temper some of that emotion with a little pragmatism.
What we’ve seen of the public Rapert is someone who thrives on emotion — from him as he speaks to a crowd, from the crowd who is galvanized by his proclamations and from the opposition who consistently attack him through various social media forms.
Through it all, he has remained stalwart, even when, during the infancy of his bill, a New York publication unearthed a video clip from a 2011 rally at the steps of the Capitol. The clip showed him saying one false statement (President Obama did attend the National Prayer Breakfast, four years and counting, unlike Rapert’s accusation) and insinuating another (Obama did host a Ramadan dinner, but he followed in the footsteps of George W. Bush, who created the dinner and hosted it for eight years, something Rapert failed to mention).
While the video was inconsequential — it was essentially a preacher and his choir — it did show us how emotional Rapert can be in public when it comes to matters in which he believes. But is raw emotion what needs to feed our legislators when they have to sit down and work on important laws that will affect us all?
While emotion can stir a crowd or inspire an individual, good, old-fashioned pragmatism can accomplish far more good. Now, Rapert did not take his 12-week ban into the Senate like a bull in a china shop. He worked with lawmakers and created exemptions and moved wording around. He did so in order to garner enough support. And he certainly got it.
But Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe was, in my opinion, more pragmatic when he vetoed the bill. His reasons were simple: After consulting with legal counsel, he made the call that the proposed law would eventually be declared unconstitutional, and a veto at this point could save the state money it would use in a lawsuit.
I don’t know what Beebe thinks about abortion. Remember that an Arkansas Democrat is much different in ideology than a Vermont Democrat. That was shown by the number of Democrats who voted with Rapert for the bill and for the override of Beebe’s veto. He did sign an earlier law based on insurance and abortion sponsored and backed by Republicans. But, regardless of his personal views, he looked at all sides before issuing what was essentially a toothless veto.
What do I personally think about the law? Good luck getting that out of me. But I do think that sometimes “fighting the good fight” as some like to put it, can actually be counterproductive to a legislator’s effort.
It’s a tightrope to walk, taking your personal convictions and seeing if they can fit into what can be accomplished in state or national government. Despite what Rapert says, I just don’t see how his bill will remain or even become a law. That’s not my emotion talking. That’s just me being pragmatic.
(Editor Richard Duke can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1297. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)