For most of my career, I worked with elementary aged children, and there are a few things I learned as a result. One is that kids have a low tolerance for anything that smacks of any action that seems unfair. They don’t object, for the most part, to your setting rules and boundaries for them, but by golly, you better apply the rules fairly and enforce the boundaries with an even hand or they will call you out in a hurry. They will also lose respect for you if they think you are being “unfair.” Their sense of fair play is finely tuned from the very beginning. Just try to pull a fast one on a group of 6-year olds and hear them howl.
It seems to be an innate trait--and one that we all share--the expectation is that the rules are important in order to be able to play on a “level playing field.” Cheaters are called out and shunned by the group. There is no patience for those who would try to game the system to their own individual advantage. It just doesn’t fly.
Those of us who live in Virginia have been witness this week to a bunch of grown men and women in the Virginia Senate who have lost all sense of fair play and “playing by the rules.” Indeed, they have broken the rules in order to benefit themselves and we Virginians have been quick to cry “Foul.”
If you don’t know to what I am referring, you should take a look here. On Monday, the Republicans in the Virginia Senate took advantage of Senator Henry Marsh’s absence (he was attending President Obama’s inauguration) and rammed a vote through that fundamentally changes the redistricting map in a way that heavily favors the Republicans. They had to be sneaky about when they took the vote because they already knew that if everyone were in attendance when the vote came up, it would result in the typical 20-20 tie. Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, who had been approached earlier with the scheme had indicated that he was not inclined to approve the measure and wouldn’t vote for it...so the Republican leadership laid in wait until the Democrats were short a member and sprung the vote on the remaining Democrats who were totally blindsided.
This is not what we teach children about fair play. This is not statesmanlike behavior. This is NOT how Virginians expect their legislators to behave. And thankfully, what they have done has already received so much negative attention that there is a chance—a slim one, most likely, but still a chance--that the Governor will veto the bill when it comes across his desk.
People should also know that Virginia is about to join the handful of other states seeking to change the way electoral votes are counted in Presidential elections. Their attitude is simple. If we can’t win by playing by the rules, change the rules to better suit our needs.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I, for one, am sick of this kind of gamesmanship, and I am committing to doing whatever I can to make a change in the next election. People who expect better from our leaders, I urge you to do the same.