He was against it before he was for it, but in the end its how it's said, not the principle involved
January 09, 2013
In Plato's Allegory of the Cave we read about a group of men who have been imprisoned by chaining them to a wall in a cave. Across the room from where they are chained is a blank, sloping wall. But behind the men, people come and go on a pathway and bridge with a light from a fire behind them. As the people come and go the light from a fire casts shadows on the blank wall. The prisoners chained to the inner wall don't know there are people, or a fire, behind them. All they know is what the shadows they see on the wall and ceiling and the sounds which echo in the Cave. The prisoners come to believe that the shadows and echoes are the reality. They have vigorous debates about what the shadows are doing and what they mean.
Monday night the audience in the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting must have felt much as the prisoners in Plato's Cave felt. They watched a half hour debate that was meaningless but which stirred feelings about as much as anything has in recent meetings. The issue was voter photo ID.
Here's what we saw. Stan Deatherage has prepared and had distributed days in advance a resolution by which he proposed that the Board endorse what is expected to be swift action by the newly convening State Legislature. Mr. Deatherage fashioned his recommendation in the form of a classical resolution in which he listed several "whereas" that led to an endorsement of passage of the Voter Photo ID law.
When the floor was opened for debate, the shadows that consumed the discussion related to the need for people who vote to verify that they were actually who they say they are. The Republicans didn't want people to vote who are not eligible to vote. That position was represented by each and every Republican on the board. Likewise each of the Democrats argued that requiring a picture ID to vote would disenfranchise many people because, they argued, many do not have a photo ID and really can't get one.
One observing the shadows and echoes of the debate would certainly realize that it was a rehash of the same debate that has taken place time and again and indeed was essentially the same as that seen when the Republican General Assembly last year passed a Voter Photo ID bill only to see it vetoed by the Democrat governor. We didn't hear a single argument Monday night that we didn't hear last year in the Legislature and from the Governor. The Republicans could not muster the necessary Democrats to override the veto but the last election changed that. It not only elected more Republicans in both houses of the Legislature but a Republican governor who campaigned on supporting a photo ID law was elected.
So you'd have to be watching very distorted shadows on the wall not to see what's coming. They're going to not only pass the bill again but it will become law with the new Governor's signature.
So the debate Monday night was practically meaningless. It will not make ANY difference what the Beaufort County Commissioners do or don't do or how they say it. The deal's done. That train's already left the station.
So what was all the arguing about Monday night? One would think with four Republicans on the board and three Democrats that a motion to support adopting a Voter Photo ID bill would be dispatched in short order. Not in Beaufort County. We have one Republican (now) on the board who just can't seem to bring himself to vote with the other Republicans.
We say that to make a simple point. This debate, for all that it was or was not, was not about the principle of whether voters should show a photo ID to vote. The vote went one way on one motion and the opposite way on another, essentially the same, motion
When Republican Deatherage's motion was called it failed 3-4. That is three Republicans (Hood Richardson, Stan Deatherage and Gary Brinn) voted to endorse passing a photo ID bill. Democrats Jerry Langley, Ed Booth and Robert Belcher voted as good Democrats to oppose making people show a photo ID to vote. But the strange thing was that "Republican" Al Klemm also voted no, just as he had opposed requiring a photo ID a couple of years ago.
But it got even weirder as the fire burned low, casting longer shadows on the wall. Klemm offered an alternative motion, although he did not do so as would normally be the case according to Robert's Rules of Order. Rather than move to amend the motion (Deatherage's) on the floor or to offer a substitute motion he waited for the question to be called and then voted "NO" on requiring a photo ID.
He then turned right around and made a motion to endorse requiring a photo ID.
Yep, you read that right. He voted not to before he voted to. John Kerry would no doubt be proud of Brother Klemm.
So we asked Mr. Klemm to explain why he opposed one motion to require a photo ID and then proposed another to do exactly that. In the discussion in the video below you will hear him mumble something about not being pleased with the exact wording of Mr. Deatherage's motion, but remember, he offered no motion to amend (change the wording). Nor did he offer a substitute motion. Strangely he voted one way on the first motion and the opposite way on the second (his) motion.
We specifically asked Mr. Klemm to explain to the public what the differences were in the two motions that compelled his strange behavior. At this writing he has failed to respond—which is typical of him, so don't expect us to given him any more chances to explain his bizarre behavior. But if he does we will let you know.
You can watch all the shadows and hear all the echoes in the video below. What you will not see or hear is a rational explanation for why they argued about the shadows and never dealt with reality—what they were doing will make absolutely no difference whatsoever. Bank on it.
Now interestingly, Richardson and Deatherage did explain why they voted for both motions: They think the issue is so important that showing their support for photo ID's was more important than the "whereas'." So to get the same result they voted for Mr. Klemm's strange motion.
During the discussion the only reason Klemm gives for his alternative motion is that he did not like the "flow" of the words in Deatherage's motion although he neither identified what words did not flow well with him, nor did he explain why he was willing to throw out the substance of the motion (to support photo ID) for the form he preferred. You have to ask yourself what difference he thinks the "flow" of the words will make in Raleigh. More shadows.
We have no clue why the reality of what we saw actually happened. We do have some theories and we've talked to a number of people who have some interesting observations about what Mr. Klemm was up to but we'll save those for later. We'd be very interested in your analysis of what was actually going on in this video. We encourage you to file a Feedback comment because maybe you can shed some light on the wall and dispel some of the shadows being created here.
We will leave you with one thought before we postulate our theories: On one of the most strongly held political issues of the day, Mr. Klemm voted with three Democrats. Then he voted with three Republicans. We think that shadow may reveal an eye-opening reality. Wouldn't you love to hear his explanation? Come on Mr. Klemm fess up. Just as the prisoners were eventually freed from the Cave and in the bright light of day discovered the true reality of their former existence, the truth shall set you free Al.