Perhaps an overly optimistic individual of the 1880s expressed the idea that, although power tends to corrupt those in charge, if they have “absolute power” they will govern and act generously and impartially. Lord Acton scrapped this belief from misconceptions when he wrote in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
For good examples of Lord Acton’s truth, we can look to the absolutely Republican-dominated houses of the Kentucky Legislature. Not content with being able to pass and block any bill they want, they have now changed the rules so that they can cut off debate immediately after introducing a bill. According to practice and tradition, when a motion to end debate is moved, any other person in the House who still wishes to speak may do so for 10 minutes. Now not at all, thus reinforcing the true conservative Republican principle of free speech. Since those pesky Democrats don’t have the ability to defeat a bill, why should the Republican majority waste time listening to them?
On the docket for the current legislative session is “BR 14: AN ACT relating to public education and declaring an emergency.” “Amend KRS 158.183 to require a local school board or the board of a public charter school to ensure that no public school or public charter school provides classroom instruction or discussion that incorporates designated concepts related to race, gender and religion”
It is now a fundamental conservative Republican principle: let the government prescribe what can and cannot be discussed between its citizens and its teachers. Keep government at the center of our lives. Limit students’ freedom of expression. Maybe burn a few pounds. After all, the GOP Legislature has absolute power to do so. And it is declared an emergency that such restrictions take place NOW before another young mind is infected.
It is not possible that the supporters of the legislation were the members of the white citizens’ councils of sixty years ago? Or be Ku Klux Klaners a hundred years ago? Or slave owners 150 years ago?
And, of course, Republican lawmakers are committed to democracy, backed by free and fair elections – elections in which consideration is given to the preservation of existing sensitive areas of political leaning. That’s why the GOP will adopt gerrymandered maps dividing the city of Bowling Green into three legislative districts. They add enough rural territory to ensure that the votes of city dwellers are diluted, ensuring that the resulting elected officials are Republicans. I can’t have too many. Need a super-super majority.
And, since the male is dominant in our human species, it makes sense to redraw district lines so that women are kicked out of the legislature. Lord Acton again: “. . . absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Budget: Traditionally, the executive branch comes up with a plan and the outcome is produced through negotiation between the two core agencies of government. Using its absolute power, the GOP first released a draft budget. Why should he bother to observe the regular order when it is not necessary? Heck, despite the turn Republican leaders suggest they want to negotiate with the governor, they probably won’t even bother to read his submission. Why should he?
The only intrusion into the absolute power now wielded by the GOP is the high regard in which many thinking citizens of the Commonwealth hold Governor Beshear for his leadership and compassion in the COVID pandemic. While cabinet and legislative GOP members have done their best to promote “individual liberty” regardless of the loss of life (remember the freshman GOP representatives who showed up on day one without a mask?) , The governor generally prevailed. Certainly, with its absolute power, the GOP can solve this problem in 2023. Or maybe not.
Michael Kennedy is a retired geography professor from the University of Kentucky.