The sad story of South Dakota’s Senator Tim Johnson’s stroke is newsworthy for many reasons. Mostly we all (well, probably almost all of us) wish him well and many of us will pray for his recovery.
The secondary story here is what happens if Senator Johnson doesn’t recover or has to resign from the senate because of incapacitation. I certainly don’t want to conflate the importance of the two stories, but the political aspect of the secondary story leads into a large pet peeve of mine.
When a senator leaves office in the middle of his/her term for any reason, the Governor of the state from which the senator was elected gets to name the interim replacement for the senator.
Most of the time, the Governor will name an interim from the Governor’s political party. The problem I have (and I don’t think I’m alone) is that the people may have voted for someone from the OPPOSITE party. I realize that the Senate is the lesser democratic (small ‘d’ democratic) of the two bodies, but I do not understand why the will of the people can be thwarted in such a manner.
In this case, the control of the Senate hangs in the balance. My beef isn’t that a Republican will be named in South Dakota to replace Senator Johnson (in the worst case scenario)…I don’t care if the senator in question is Republican, Democratic, Green, Socialist, or Pleistocene. If the governor doesn’t replace the vacancy with a member of the party that left office prematurely, the governor is not only turning his back on the majority of the people in the state that bothered to vote, he is saying that his ‘vote’ is more important than the people.
Most of all, I want Senator Johnson to recover. That is clearly the best ‘solution’ here.