Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dangerous Silliness

Recently, a judge ruled that Maryland's law prohibing gay marriage was unconstitutional. You might remember the Democrats running for office were horrified by this decision, because it meant they might have to take an unpopular stand on an issue (or more likely, take the popular stand, chucking principles in search of votes).

Anyway, one of our favorite nuts, Anne Arundel Delegate Don Dwyer, he who rallied the rabble at the CRC's March 2005 town hall meeting, is ... going off the deep end.
A state lawmaker wants the judge who ruled that the state's definition of marriage was unconstitutional to be removed from the bench, meaning Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock would face the same fate as only one other jurist in Maryland history.

That Civil War-era judge was punished for getting drunk and falling asleep in court.

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel Republican, said in a statement yesterday that he is preparing a General Assembly resolution asking that Murdock lose her job. Dwyer sent the judge a copy of the resolution yesterday and said he plans to present it to the legislature next week. A two-thirds vote in each chamber is needed for passage.

"Judge Murdock must be removed from office for misbehavior in office, [willful] neglect of duty, and incompetency," said Dwyer in the statement. Dwyer was the lead sponsor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. The amendment was killed by a House committee this month. Dwyer to push for judge's impeachment

I find this the strangest thing. Here in America, we have a certain system of government, splitting up the duties into the executive, legislative, and judicial functions. The three divisions keep an eye on each other; the optimistic cynicism of the Founding Fathers was pure genius. Methods have been worked out for electing, appointing, and approving people to serve in various important positions. As Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." This system doesn't always work very well, but, well, it's the best we've been able to come up with, and it does have the advantage that the people get to have a say every couple of years.

But the Dwyer-ish types -- and by that I mean to include the group that formed last winter to recall the entire Montgomery County Board of Education when things didn't go the way they wanted -- just can't accept democracy.

It's not government they want, they don't respect the will of the people -- these recall efforts are best seen as an attempted takeover by a belligerent and persistent minority. They're not looking to revise policies, it's not that they have some principles that they want to see enacted as law; there's nothing to discuss with these people, they simply want it all.

The Baltimore Sun was, I thought, very clear in their editorial assessment of the situation -- they say it better than I could:
The best that can be said about some proposals is nothing, so as not to draw attention to lamebrain notions that will succumb to their own foolishness in any case. Thus, the initial impulse was simply to ignore Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr.'s absurd attempt to remove a Baltimore Circuit Court judge because she ruled against a state ban on gay marriage.

In fact, so silly is the notion that a judge could be removed on the basis of one decision, no matter how unpopular, that the Anne Arundel County Republican must have another agenda. Such as drawing attention to his bid to put a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the fall ballot, or finding a means to force reluctant Democrats to take a stand on the controversial issue.

That said, Mr. Dwyer's crude bid to bully and intimidate not only one Baltimore judge but also presumably the entire Maryland judiciary is so antithetical to American democracy that it's too dangerous to ignore.

Under the American system of checks and balances, legislators write the laws and judges resolve legal disputes, often by interpreting the law. Politicians frequently complain about judges legislating from the bench, but the truth is that judges often find themselves confronted with difficult disputes on which lawmakers have taken a pass.

Gay marriage is a case in point. Neither President Bush nor most members of Congress have any desire to get embroiled in that debate. So they have left it to the states, and ultimately the courts.

Baltimore Judge M. Brooke Murdock's courtroom was the first stop on what will doubtless be a long legal journey for the nine gay couples challenging Maryland's law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. She found the law to be unconstitutionally discriminatory. Rulings could well seesaw back and forth as the case proceeds through state appeals courts and perhaps to the federal level.

Delegate Dwyer contends that the General Assembly has broad authority to remove a judge for treading on legislative turf, hinting at the same brand of incendiary intolerance in which Texas Rep. Tom DeLay engaged when federal judges rebuffed Congress' attempt to manipulate the bench in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube case last year.

An independent judiciary is vital to Maryland and to the nation. Its members should be treasured, not threatened - or soon no lawyer worthy of the job will agree to serve. Bully Boy

It's silly, yes. But the sad fact is that intelligent people who care about their country have to wade into this stuff, and take these guys on. Because it's not just that they have different beliefs from the rest of us. These are people who have rejected the American way, and are dead-set on acquiring power to push their warped views on the rest of us, by any means.


Blogger andrear said...

Dwyer said some horrible things when I heard him at the hatefest. But now it is good to know that he is not only a hatemonger but against democracy as well. Actually, I think he is just a dope who wants publicity anyway he can get it. Next, we will see him sitting on a billboard(and we know which one) until he gets his way.

February 28, 2006 3:59 PM  
Blogger Alex K. said...

The bad thing about Democracy is that idiots have a say.

February 28, 2006 6:33 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback. said...

The GOOD thing about Democracy is that EVERYONE has a say. The vital thing about Democracy is that if we do our jobs as citizens well, then a full discussion of issues that divide us should ultimately result in wise decisions about how we govern ourselves. And it is not just a question of what the laws will be, but also of what is in the hearts of the people. To secure progress in human rights, these discussions are essential -- and only in a Democracy are they fully possible.

Our responsibility is to do our jobs as citizens well. That is particularly urgent when some people -- whether out of ignorance, fear, cynical ambition, or a combination of those factors -- seek to use law to hurt others. If we do not fulfill our responsibility, then our Democracy will fall far short of what it needs to be. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph if for good people to do nothing."

March 01, 2006 6:57 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

David, thanks for reminding us of the Burke message. Unfortunately, the people who need to hear that message are probably not here. So many people expect/believe that someone else will "take care of it" or that "one vote can't make a difference" or "we can't stop what is going on in Sudan(Chad, Burma,Iraq) anyway so why get involved". And studies seem to show that kids/teens pick up their political/social activism more from their parents than anything else.

March 01, 2006 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever notice how the whack jobs seem to have so much more energy to exert en route to imposing their will? Motivation for a cause is more energizing than defending a general principle. Sad, but true.

March 01, 2006 3:29 PM  

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