"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Divisions and votes


Josef Stalin was famously quoted as saying with snorting dismissiveness, in a discussion of European power politics: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”

It was the response of an authoritarian mind interested not in right or wrong, better or worse, or even the long term – only in immediate raw capabilities.

This is not – certainly! – a comparison of personalities, but the quote by state Senator Rodney Tom widely circulated today brought that old Stalin line to mind. Tom was asked about the new Washington Supreme Court report concluding that the legislature had seriously underfunded public schools in the state, and strenuously … advised … the legislature to take action on it. It was a report that quite a few people seem to have taken seriously.

Tom’s attitude was a little different. Asked about the court’s take on education funding, he said, “Let them have at it.”

In other words, how many votes (as opposed to army divisions) in the legislative chambers has the court got?

Tom, though the majority leader of the Senate, is in effect just the co-leader, along with the head of the Republican caucus; but he in fact may be speaking for the governing caucus in the Senate. If so, he’s calling for the legislature to simply defy the state’s Supreme Court. (The third branch, led by Governor Jay Inslee, would be differently inclined.)

It may be able to do that for a while. But eventually, a price will be paid. Watch how the session, and the election following, play out.

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