October 29, 2019 10:22:21 AM
At every level of government, the importance of political ideology increases in proportion to the scope of the office.
Even the most partisan citizen will agree that the work of a constable or tax collector or a chancery clerk is seldom, if ever, influenced by the office holder's political ideology. As someone long ago observed, there is no such thing as a Republican Party pothole or a Democratic Party drainage ditch.
At the state level, political considerations do come into play, especially on the subject of taxes and spending. The two parties can and do often differ on both of those subjects, and others as well.
But even at the state level, political ideology should be far less prominent. Our statewide elected officials lacking both the authority and the ability, are not charged with implementing national policy, which is today politicized in every conceivable way, often to the detriment of the people. In today's political climate, it's unlikely a bill authorizing Mother's Day could get through Congress.
The more our state infuses national partisan issues into our state elections, the worse off we are all likely to be.
In the scriptures, we are reminded, "Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof." In modern terms, that means, "We have problems enough of our own without wading into national debates about ideology."
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has nevertheless campaigned ceaselessly to blur that distinction in his gubernatorial race against Attorney General Jim Hood. Without fail, his campaign ads make a lot of his close ties to President Trump and Hood's alleged cozy relationships with all of the national Democratic Party hobgoblins - Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, etc. Both Trump and vice president Mike Pence will make appearances in Mississippi to stump for Reeves. Donald Trump Jr. campaigned for Reeves in our state last week.
Yet the most dangerous partisan on the Nov. 5 ballot is state senator Michael Watson, a Tea Party Republican running for Secretary of State against former Hattiesburg mayor Johnny Dupree.
The primary duty of Secretary of State is running state elections and Watson has gone on the record during the campaign saying, if elected, he will run background checks on those who register to vote.
At the Neshoba County Fair in July, Watson told the crowd that a system could be used to "flag" people who might not be in the country legally and, thus, ineligible to vote.
In theory, it seems like a legitimate duty of the office. In practice, it's so transparently open to abuse that it's been ruled unconstitutional - A similar statute in Kansas was shot down in the courts.
As one of the more patently partisan members of the Mississippi Legislature, Watson has no qualms about making partisanship central to his policy.
I strongly suspect the "flagging" mechanism installed under Watson's direction would begin and end with the person's last name. If your last name is Rodriguez or Torres, don't expect registering to vote to be as simple as it would be if your name is Smith or Jones.
For anyone with a sense of fairness, that's unacceptable and contrary to our sense of fairness.
That flagging voter registration was the first policy Watson offered up is a clear sign that he intends to politicize what should be the most non-partisan office in our state.
If you believe in the integrity of the Secretary of State's office, you should immediately recognize the danger Watson presents and vote accordingly on Nov. 5.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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