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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 18, 2016

 

Common sense is neither

by Tom Sullivan


Still from "Lonesome Lenny," MGM 1946.

Political eons ago in February, Donald Trump tried branding himself a "common-sense conservative." Common sense gun laws are what we need, if you read the news. Common sense immigration reform. Common sense college football reform. Since Thomas Paine, "common sense" has been bandied about in political circles, a kind of UL label or Good Housekeeping seal attached to every issue de jure. It's surprising Charlie the Tuna hasn't tried an appeal to common sense to promote himself to Starkist.

When Glenn Beck argued that North Carolina's "bathroom bill" is just common sense, or when Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker pleads with Washington for a “common-sense reform” that would let him drug test SNAP recipients, you know the poor phrase, like Lonesome Lenny's little friend, has been loved to death.

Common sense voter ID laws, for example. North Carolina has hired a rather expensive lawyer at taxpayer expense to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a common-sense stay on the Fourth Circuit ruling that overturned its common-sense voter ID law. The state is common-sensically worried about the ruling confusing voters so close to the election. Ian Millhiser looks at that argument for Think Progress:

But there are a number of reasons why this argument is unlikely to convince a majority of the justices. For one thing, the reason why the Fourth Circuit issued their opinion in July is because North Carolina told them that it could handle a decision that close to the election. As the appeals court explained,
At oral argument, the State assured us that it would be able to comply with any order we issued by late July. As to early voting locations and staffing, we were told that at a minimum the State could conduct early voting at the Board of Elections office for each county. As to the photo ID requirement, the State informed us that it would comply with an injunction of that law by instructing its poll workers not to require photo ID. And, as the State acknowledges, its SEIMS system is already prepared to implement same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The State told us that the proofs for its voter guide were not due until August 5, and that its election official training would not begin until August 8. We issued our opinion, injunction, and mandate a week in advance of those dates. Because of these assurances, we are confident that North Carolina can conduct the 2016 election in compliance with our injunction.
Worse, after the appeals court issued its decision striking much of the state’s voter suppression law, North Carolina waited seventeen days to file its “emergency” application asking the justices for a stay. That’s a pretty good way to communicate to the justices that this “emergency” isn’t really all that urgent.

So, to summarize, the state told the appeals court that it was prepared to implement a July order striking down parts of the law. Then, after the court complied with this deadline, the state sat on its hands for two-and-a-half weeks before it finally got around to asking the Supreme Court to consider this case. And now it expects the justices to say that much of the Fourth Circuit’s order must be stayed because we are too close to Election Day.

The state has, to borrow from Leo Rosten, murdered its parents and then demanded mercy because it is an orphan.
This, on top of the comment noted yesterday by the Board of Elections member in Charlotte, whose common-sense reason for limiting early voting sites in the state's largest city is, “The more [early voting] sites we have, the more opportunities exist for violations.”

Common sense as in if you want to reduce voting errors you make it so fewer people can vote? Common sense as in how can you be sure voters beside you in line are not space aliens without testing their DNA? Common sense as in the world is flat because anyone with two eyes can see that?

Stick a fork in it. Common sense is neither common nor sense.