Most Hoosiers go about their lives not thinking much about politics. We’re not just saying that. In 2022, voter turnout in Indiana was 50th among the 50 states, the Indiana Civic Health Index reported last month.
We are paying dearly for this apathy. The Indiana General Assembly’s supermajority Republicans have total control of every branch of state government. That’s the nature of gerrymandered supermajorities. Because of the way the supermajority has carved Indiana into favorable districts, lawmakers know they likely will keep their seats no matter how badly they behave. Take Seymour Republican Rep. Jim Lucas. Please.
Yet most Hoosiers are not being represented by this bunch. How can we make such generalizations? A few issues that have taken center stage this year and in past sessions are instructive.
Guns: Nine bills were introduced in the legislature this year regarding firearms. A few proposing modest reforms went nowhere. But sailing through the legislature was one, Senate Bill 14. It would let more people carry guns at the Statehouse. (But not most Hoosiers.)
That bill was moving last week as Lucas played show and tell with his pistol, mansplaining gun rights to visiting high school students. These young people had come on Advocacy Day. They are concerned about school shootings and gun violence. Lucas flashed his gun at them, again embarrassing himself and our state. Lucas taught students a lesson about power: Members of supermajorities need not compromise or even respect differing views.
Yet here is a fact: Most Hoosiers, about 55%, don’t own a firearm, according to studies from the RAND Corp. and Pew Research Center. That is a landslide in any election. But worse than being ignored, this silent majority is belittled and demeaned by members of the supermajority.
Abortion: Supermajority Republicans passed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws after the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Gov. Eric Holcomb called a special session in 2022, and days later he signed a law making almost all abortions illegal despite massive rallies at the Capitol in support of abortion rights.
Yet here is a fact: Most Hoosiers, about 59%, believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to the 2023 Hoosier Survey conducted by Ball State University and released last month.
Marijuana: Indiana General Assembly leaders won’t even discuss this topic this session even though every neighboring state has legalized marijuana in some form. Lawmakers know Hoosiers are crossing state lines to buy. That’s millions of tax dollars and thousands of jobs we could be keeping in state, not to mention our unjust state of continued prohibition.
Yet here is a fact: Most Hoosiers, about 86.4%, believe marijuana should be legal for personal or medicinal use, the Ball State survey found.
Democracy: Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, offered an amendment last week that would have placed this modest and nonbinding question on the November ballot:
“Shall citizens be allowed to initiate a ballot referendum in Indiana?”
Yet here is a fact: No member of the Indiana House supermajority voted yes.
At least the supermajority is on record. They don’t have to listen to most Hoosiers.