Like every session, there are wrong-headed and unnecessary bills down at the Legislature. This week, let’s just look at two.
There is yet another attempt to pass an open-container law. The premise of this bill is that people drinking in a vehicle means they have a drinking or drunk driver. The argument is that a driver stopped by the police just tells a companion to “hold this.”
First of all, have you ever heard about designated drivers? It’s one of the successful campaigns by anti-drunk driving advocates. One member of the group volunteers not to drink anything but ice tea on the way to the game, the tail gate, the lake, or back and forth to dinner.
Then there are van drivers and limo drivers taking people to football games or concerts.
As to the argument the driver just hands his beer to a passenger when stopped by the law, I just have one response—what world do you live in? If you get stopped by the law and there is alcohol, open containers, or just the smell, you can bet the officer will have the driver out on the side of the road administering a field sobriety test at a minimum or likely blowing into a Breathalyzer.
The idea that a clever drinking driver can just hand his beer to a passenger and thus fool the cops or just sit smugly victorious because the state doesn’t have an open-container law is so funny, any legislator making that case ought to be laughed out of the chamber.
This is one of those feel-good bills that make people think we are doing something about drunk driving. Drunk driving is a pernicious problem often related to mental illness, self-medicating for depression, and alcoholism. You do something about it with expensive treatment, dealing with the root causes of the problem, and other approaches that cost money no one is willing to spend.
But what can be done, easily and cheaply, is to pass bills to harass law-abiding social drinkers.
There is another bill that prevents people voting in the primary election for the other party. The Republicans keep proposing this bill to keep Democrats from voting in a Republican primary and electing moderates instead of good conservative right-thinking people. It isn’t aimed at Republicans voting in Democratic primaries because everyone knows a Republican voting in a Democratic primary results in your being struck by lightning.
Democrats voting in a Republican primary is how all those rural Democratic counties in West Tennessee came to be electing Republican legislators and allowing for a supermajority takeover of the House and Senate. Have you ever heard of a Reagan Democrat? How do you suppose the solid Democratic South wound up as the strongest bastion of Republicanism in the country if Democrats had not gotten used to voting in Republican primaries?
As to strategic voting, where Democrats vote for a weak Republican in order to beat them in the general, that too is ludicrous. If the Democrats have a candidate they hope to elect in the general election, then they vote for that candidate in the primary. There is no objective evidence found by political scientists that show crossover Democrats having any effect on the outcome of a Republican primary.
There is an argument that Democrats, who have no Democrat in the race, vote for the moderate Republican instead of the more conservative candidate. Can anybody name a race in which the Democrats elected the Republican? The more moderate candidate, like Lamar Alexander or Bob Corker or Bill Haslam, wins a Republican primary because they usually have two conservative opponents who split the conservative vote. (Van Hillary and Ed Bryant. Ron Ramsey and Zach Wamp.)
Republicans ought to be encouraging Democrats to vote in Republican primaries. In the past it has led to Republicans owning the state Legislature and seven out of nine congressional seats, two U.S. Senate seats, and the governor’s office.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.