Senators show true colors in turning against former ally


February 17, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

Well, we got our own little statewide lesson in call-in democracy, and how do you like it?

The good news is that the good guys won.

The bad news is that's not how it will necessarily turn out the next time.

John Arnick is, to use the technical term, dead in the water. The people dumped him there. They spoke loudly and clearly and with right on their side.

They flooded the airwaves. They swamped their legislators. They called from home, from their car phones, even risking cancer by using their cellular phones. It's like all of a sudden we believe in people power again. And, believe me, C&P appreciates the sentiment.

So now, either Arnick withdraws or he gets voted down.

Why did so many senators finally listen? Here are some possibilities: They heard the voices of the people and recognized the wisdom of their positions. Their consciences were moved. They saw, as in a collective vision, the collective light.

How about this one? These legislators, too often and regrettably insulated from the voters, were touched by the common goodness of the common man.

OK, I was just kidding about the common goodness bit. And about the consciences. Let's get real. You know why the change of heart.

The senators sensed an angry mob out there and courageously gave up their friend, John Arnick, to the guys with the ropes.

I mean, how can the senators, who overwhelmingly supported Arnick, justify moving away from him? There was no new evidence. There was no smoking gun -- just the same damning testimony and the same clear-cut charges everyone had heard and most had chosen to ignore.

Nothing was new, except all the heat being generated. Let's just say nobody was hanging around the kitchen.

You watched the meltdown. You saw Mike Miller -- president of the Senate, defender of Arnick -- on TV stammering about how there'd be no cover-up so long as he was in charge. Here's what he wanted to say: "Help!!! I'm a dead man. I'm a dead man. Somebody please save me."

I just hope he hasn't had any Governor Miller stationery made up yet.

You know, it would have been one thing if the old boys (and girls) in the Senate had changed their minds because they realized they were doing something wrong.

They knew they were doing something wrong all along. They changed their minds because somebody noticed.

Paula Hollinger, of Baltimore County, originally backed Arnick, but said she changed her mind because of all the phone calls. John Derr, of Frederick, voted for Arnick in committee. That was a 14-4 vote, you remember. He said: "I've been told -- and I think there is some validity to it -- that a vote for confirmation is political suicide."

Are these your basic profiles in courage?

Rarely does it come to that. Rarely does anyone notice anything that goes on in Annapolis. But occasionally, people get energized. It happens when you've got a story with sex, vulgarity, maybe some booze, an Anita Hill precedent, and the newspapers run with it while the talk shows light up.

Usually, the State House drill is that the leadership decides what to vote on and how to vote and the legislators follow. If they're good soldiers, good things will come to them. Maybe someday, if they hang in long enough, they'll get a judgeship or some other perk.

What moved the senators, finally, was the realization that if they stuck by Arnick they might not be around long enough to cash in their chips.

So, democracy worked.



Here's the problem. Sometimes, the people are wrong. Sometimes, what seems to be democracy can be anti-democratic.

Sometimes, the yelling gets so loud that you can't hear the truth.

That's why the founding fathers went for a representative democracy (and put in that pesky Bill of Rights). That's why you need representatives who, though they're willing to listen to their constituents, will vote their consciences.

What's disturbing is that the great majority of our state senators have proven they're not up to the task.

They showed that when they supported Arnick.

And they showed it again when they backed down.

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