On today’s page, you saw our endorsement of Jake Knotts in the runoff in the Republican nomination in Senate District 23. You also saw Cindi Scoppe’s column that was her way of thinking through, and explaining to readers, what was for the whole board a difficult decision. (And despite the little bit of fun I had about DeMint "clarifying" things, it was and is a difficult one.)
It’s worth reading, if you only get one thing out of it: This isn’t as simple as being about whether this person is for vouchers (or, worse, tax credits) or that one is against them. This is about what video poker was about — whether a group that does not have the state’s best interests at heart is allowed to intimidate the Legislature into doing its will.
It’s easy to say that, but very hard to communicate to readers. It’s hard to understand if you don’t spend as much time as I have, and as Cindi has (and she has a lot more direct experience with this than I do) observing lawmakers up close, and watching the ways they interact, and the way issues play out among them. I know it’s hard for readers to understand, because all these years later, folks still seem to have trouble understanding what the video poker issue was about for the editorial board, and why we took the position we ultimately did (to ban the industry).
I know we’ll be explaining this one for the next 10 years, and possibly longer. It’s just tough to communicate, and made tougher in this case because video poker was at least unsavory on its face. The face of this campaign funded by out-of-state extremists appears to be perfectly nice, ordinary people like Katrina Shealy and Sheri Few.
But it’s not about them. And it’s not about Jake Knotts, either. It’s certainly not about whether one or two candidates who favor (or might favor) vouchers get elected to the Legislature. By themselves, those one or two candidates can’t change the fact that spending public funds on private schools is (quite rightly) an unpopular cause. What this is about is the fact that if Jake Knotts loses, Howard Rich and company win, and that will play in the Legislature this way: Our money took Jake down. We can do the same to you. And at that point, lawmakers who don’t believe in vouchers and know their constituents don’t either can be induced to vote along with those interests anyway.
We saw it happen with video poker — until the industry was put out of business, cutting off the flow of cash that was corrupting the legislative process. We’re seeing a similar dynamic here. And that’s what this is about.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Cindi had a column about that. On Sunday, I’ll have a very different column about this endorsement. At one point in the column, I refer to one of the big differences between our editorial board and Jake Knotts — his populism. So it is that I post the video below, which features Sen. Knotts talking about that.