By Diane Silver
I can't say that I'm a Beltway insider, but once upon a time I was an insider in the wild and whacky Kansas Statehouse. Judging from the way I learned to read the Kansas Senate, I'd say the much richer senators in Washington, D.C. just had a good laugh at the expense of their constituents.
Yesterday's one-vote loss of a constitutional amendment banning flag burning reminded me of the close votes I saw on countless controversial issues in the Statehouse.
As a rookie reporter for The Wichita Eagle, once a part of the late lamented Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, I was baffled by how easily lawmakers rattled off these close votes. I was even more thrown by the fact that I heard constant rumors that folks who voted "yes" often hated the proposals they were supposedly supporting.
Being a tad slow then on the political uptake, it took me a while to realize that their "yes" votes always came on politically popular proposals, but only on proposals that failed.
Eventually, a lawmaker clued me in on what was really happening: A close defeat almost always meant that the opposition was far larger than the number of "no" votes on the tally board.
Because a particular proposal, like say banning flag burning, is so popular,though, lawmakers want to vote yes to please their constituents. Since the lawmakers know the proposal will fail, it's safe for them to vote "yes" on it.
A one-vote defeat? I'm guessing that may well be a bunch of hooey. I suspect the opposition may be far larger than that. But heck, what do I know. I just live in Kansas.
Dana Milbank from the Washington Post also has some fun perspective on senators antics during the day. His column provides yet more proof that banning flag-burning is not high on the list of these folks' priorities.
Oh, and where do I stand on the issue? Right beside the First Amendment and in opposition to the ban.