Column: Passage of voucher bill stinks of politics

School vouchers passed the House. How exciting. But for those of you who are about to stop reading, I’m not going to talk about the logistics and evils of the Republican-backed plan. I am hardly an expert in public policy, and I’m not going to try my hand at such a boring topic. Here’s how I see it – I wouldn’t trust a Republican to babysit my pet fish because he would probably cut funding for food. So why would I trust America’s children with the Republican Party? Simple enough.

But while falling asleep reading the Washington Post article on the Voucher Bill, an interesting detail caught my attention. The bill passed the House by only one vote around 8 p.m. on September 9. Wait, wasn’t there a Democratic debate that night? Wow, talk about your coincidences. The Republicans just happened to schedule a tied vote when they knew three Democrats opposed to school vouchers would not be present.

But don’t worry; it wasn’t intentional at all. No, Republicans are above all that. While Democrats were whining about unfair methods, Jonathan Grella, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Tom DeLay, cleared up the matter. Speaking for the shame of Texas (at least one of them), he stated, “We’re not that smart … They’re giving us too much credit.” Chalk up another point for the Republicans.

Look, I’m the last to accuse DeLay, or any Republican, for that matter, of being an emblem of intelligence, but this is absurd. Does Senator DeLay actually expect us to believe that Republicans didn’t purposefully schedule the vote for a night when three staunch Democrats would be absent? The stupidity amazes even me, and I’ve read Treason.

If it was just the one vote, I’d pass it off as a simple dirty trick devised in the hopes of a win Bush desperately needs for his failing presidency. But it isn’t just one vote. This is an ongoing pattern with Republicans, especially Tom DeLay. In California, Republicans are showing their contempt of fair elections in attempting to recall a duly elected leader. In Texas and Colorado, Republicans are screwing the rules and pushing ridiculous redistricting plans through the state legislature. And, of course, there’s Florida. We’ll always remember Florida. So I’ve come to this fair and informed decision: Republicans hate democracy.

Ok, it’s a little extreme, but it would make a good MoveOn.org ad, wouldn’t it? (Actually, there already is one, and it’s posted in my dorm room.) So Republicans don’t hate democracy, just the rules. But why do they feel they have to doctor the game in a seemingly desperate attempt to hang onto power?

To try to explain their mentality, let me tell a story. When I was in third grade, we used to play football during recess. Every day the teams were the same: all the good kids on one team, all the athletically impaired on the other. Any idea which team I was on? To make matters worse for my team, any time one of our players showed an inkling of talent, he or she (most often she) would automatically be transferred to the talented side.

The moral of the story is that even though these kids had a clear advantage, they felt the need to cement their power by constantly changing the rules. For them, the absolute worst thing that could happen was losing.

The Republicans are no different from these children, and that assessment includes considering their intelligence. They are terrified that they will lose in the 2004 elections and that their monopoly of power will fade. If Democrats retake the legislative and executive branches, all the Republicans’ hard work at tanking the economy, polluting the air and cutting countless jobs will be tragically lost. And that is simply unacceptable.

So Republicans are taking every measure they can to make sure this doesn’t happen, even if that means stretching and breaking the rules. The sad part is that there’s really nothing we can do about it. This is particularly traumatic for me. I thought my days of going home crying about unfair play were over, but I guess I forgot that little bullies grow up into big bullies. I just wish they weren’t elected officials.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist

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