Gutta-percha is a Southeast Asian tree. A cane made from its wood was wielded in the U.S. Senate by Congressman Preston Brooks, against a sitting senator, Charles Sumner — literally sitting there at his desk. Sumner nearly died from the beating.
Congressman Brooks hailed from South Carolina. His constituents so approved his violence that they sent him dozens of replacement canes. One was engraved “hit him again.”
One-hundred fifty-three years later and we’re still much exericized by the actions of a South Carolinian congressman, this time one Joe Wilson, who shouted “You lie!” at the president. The in-crowd reacts as if those words were gutta-percha.
Jonathan Alter, in Newsweek, says today’s problem is too many “jackasses.” According to his assessment, if we adopted the new electoral system adopted in Washington state, which he calls the “open primary,” the “jackass quotient” among our representatives would decrease.
Alter seriously errs. Washington’s new electoral system, usually called “Top Two primary,” replaces the state’s historic — and justly named — “open primary.” But this new “Top Two” scheme marginalizes minor parties and independent candidates, raises campaign costs, and makes it easier for incumbents to stay in office. I’ve argued against it before.
Good thing is, next June, Californians can beat down this idea, when “Top Two” hits the state’s ballot, courtesy of the incumbent politicians who placed it there.
Citizens won’t need canes. Just votes.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.