Thursday, September 16, 2010

Respect for laws and Respect for the Law

I don't tend to talk about politics - at least not about specific candidates - on my blog or in my classroom.  One of my main reasons for this (I have several) is that as a teacher of philosophy, I am more interested in the ideas than in the people running for office. 

The case of Kristi Noem - a Republican running for Congress in South Dakota - is one of those cases where it's difficult to separate the person from the ideas.  I don't mean that she is inseparable from her politics.  I am instead referring to her driving record

Many people in my state feel that Noem's record has been subjected to enough scrutiny, and that it is just an example of her opponent, Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, playing dirty politics.  The latter may be true (I don't pretend to know), but I don't think the former is true.  I don't mean that we need to have a longer investigation of Noem's driving record.  But I do wonder whether Republicans should be endorsing Noem at all. 

It's not that Noem got caught speeding once.  It's not even that she has been caught speeding 20 times.  It's that her record of breaking the law is so long that it speaks of a strong disrespect for Law in general.  None of us is perfect, but this record suggests that she's a habitual speeder.  One recent ticket had her clocked at 96 mph (the state speed limit is 75 on highways.)  Her actions say pretty loudly that she doesn't much care for the law.  Not a good attribute for someone whose job it would be, if elected, to write the law.

Do we really want to endorse candidates who view the law as something to be obeyed by others but not by themselves?  Isn't that precisely the opposite of the character we want in our legislators?  (Or have I just been reading too much Plato?)

Addendum:  A friend of mine points out that while the link above states it, I do not mention that Noem also has six times failed to appear in court; and she has twice had arrest warrants issued against her.  I'm not just asking Republicans if they want this to be their public face; I'm asking all of us if we want this to be the profile our legislators.  A state in which the legislators do not honor the law is a state in serious trouble.