Just Do Your Job Please
House Democrats from Texas have been the source of rather splashing headlines all around the news over the last several weeks. They broke quorum, which means the legislature is prevented from being able to continue its duties in helping the people because there are not enough legislatures present. Why did they take this action? Here is a quote from the official statement:
“Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote.
“We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”1
Now, I want to unpack a couple of specific aspects regarding this statement and try to look at what I see as a cultural issue we are facing. First of all, the notion that the Republicans are trying to force “dangerous legislation” through is false. The bill states that it is “relating to election integrity and security, including by preventing fraud in the conduct of elections in this state; increasing criminal penalties; creating criminal offenses.”2 So, very clearly just by skimming the bill, the proposed intention is to secure elections, not prevent people from voting. Importantly, the bill also states, “are not intended to impair the right of free suffrage guaranteed to the people of Texas by the United States and Texas.” The idea is to uphold voter integrity so that each person’s vote counts. Now, as anyone following political discourse knows, the intention of a bill is one thing, the application of it can be overwhelmingly different. So what does this bill actually propose? The bill in its entirety is too large to put here (you should go read it), so I will list a few highlights. Voting system equipment would have an audit performed before, after, and during the election conducted by the secretary of state as practical. Specific hours would be maintained for voting. Rules for poll watchers ensuring they can do their job by being close enough to election officials are listed. The bill even makes it a legal offense to prevent poll watchers from doing their duty. Legalities for showing personal identification are also given (i.e. driver’s license as one example).
Which portion of this bill is oppressing the people from being able to vote again? Do these individuals fleeing their job believe it is wrong for poll watchers to ensure nothing irregular takes place? I hardly find the idea of id requirements to be an encroachment on the freedom of the people to vote. Nonetheless, the Texas House Democrats are in Washington supposedly trying to “help” the passage of the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, as we read earlier in their statement. Essentially, what has happened in this case is that the Democratic legislatures did not agree with the proposed bill. Therefore, instead of casting their vote based on their belief, per their job description, what did they choose to do? They decided to flee town.
Heroes Failing To Do Their Job
Kamala Harris has recently lauded these Legislators for their “courage” even saying they continued the line of brave Americans who have died for the right to vote.3 Once again, as we have already established, it is simply a straw man argument to say that this bill is in any way trying to prevent people from voting, it is trying to protect election integrity for America and specifically Texas. So, fleeing the job instead of standing in the midst of disagreement is not hailed as the virtuous standard of courage. My question, since when is it the primary role of state legislatures to advance legislation in the federal government? I have no issues with a state legislature promoting federal laws and actions which they believe will better the country, so long as they are not neglecting their elected duties.
Supposing the Texas House Democrats wanted to try to promote certain acts being pushed by their colleagues in the Federal government, I would contend that is permissible. However, it is not even thinkable for them to retain their elected positions without performing the official elected duties. What they are doing right now is similar to a local sheriff in Texas going to help firefighters in California while his local town is under siege from a mob. It is not bravery, it is cowardice fleeing from the job your constituents entrusted to you with their votes while still wishing to be employed as a legislator. Do your job well first, then you are free to help other people in their role as you are able. Loving others dictates you must fulfill your responsibility to others before expanding your duties.
Broader Societal Implications
Of course, none of what I just said in the last paragraph means I think the Democrats have the right stance on election integrity or that I support the For The People Act. I am simply saying as elected officials, they need to do the job they have been given to the best of their ability. What is the implication of lauding individuals as courageous who are simply running from their responsibility?
Imagine a group of employees working in a supermarket who are angry at their employer for installing a camera system in the store for the purpose of their safety, product security, and customer protection. What if those employees decided not to show up for work because of the oppression of an employer seeking to keep a watchful eye on the store? How would that employer react? Well, he would probably fire the entire group for non-performance and hire new employees. If they had legitimate concerns and wanted to talk about the issues like adults, then he might have a listening ear and deal with his employees professionally. However, throwing a tantrum like a 2-year old should not be praised in a society of adults.
Yet, we must ask the question, why is such an action praised in our nation? Why do many in our country applaud the burning down of cities by radicals? How about this instance with the Texas legislatures, why is it they are being given the title of courageous by one of the highest-ranking officials in our land? These instances are examples of a shift in worldviews and belief systems. Instead of believing human beings have a duty to act morally before God and fulfill promises, many Americans now believe each person should merely take actions that make them feel good. There is no ultimate moral “ought” in such a worldview. You should only work hard when it makes you feel good, don’t worry about maintaining your job performance if it is a difficult season or you aren’t perfectly “getting your way.” Why do you think businesses can’t get people to come to work? If healthy individuals in our society believed they had a moral duty to be productive in their work before God do you think they would be living off money from the government? All of these individual issues are symptomatic of the greater worldview problems behind them.
The example of the Texas legislature is about more than just a few politicians becoming disgruntled and refusing to go to work. It gives us a sign of where our country is headed and why we must reassert a robustly biblical worldview as Christians. Parents need to train their children to value work and to understand the principle of duty so that they will fulfill the responsibilities given to them.4 Your “yes” is “yes” and your “no” is “no” so we as Christians should stand by commitments. Pastors must exhort their congregations to work for the glory of God, knowing every individual is made in His image. We should seek productivity, not laziness. Individuals must see all of these truths and run towards responsibility, not away from it. A biblical worldview equips humanity with all of these traits. The current worldview in America urges people to abandon their duty. This fact shows just how diametrically opposed to one another secularism and Christianity are not just ideologically but practically. Let us then be biblical and reject the false worldviews of the day!
2All quotes from the bill can be found here:https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/871/billtext/pdf/HB00003H.pdf#navpanes=0
4 See my article here regarding the major problems facing young people: