Who, on a pretty regular basis upon hearing of the collective shenanigans in Washington, doesn’t, in utter desperation, shout out, “Throw the bums out?” Or, “Term limits are the only way to fix this mess.”
My internal equivocation on the issue has been a bit self-embarrassing. The problem hasn’t gone away. The politicians behave as they always have, but I vacillate. Every time I think I’ve nailed down my stance, I hear or read someone else’s perspective and fall back into intellectual purgatory.
We all know the professional political class, enabled by the inherent power of incumbency, is unresponsive to the electorate; its thirst for power and control quenched by the ever-flowing fireplug known as federal money. Helping a constituent resolve a problem concerning a Social Security claim is less than trivial compared to doling out the taxpayers’ cash through the many avenues available.
States, towns, cities, individuals…and let’s not forget lobbyists…kneel at the alter of the dispensers of largesse, begging for a few crumbs. Some ask for a whole loaf; others want the bakery. The beggars get what they want (or some of it), contribute mightily to the dispenser’s next campaign and the cycle continues. And with each cycle, the dispensers’ collection of the beggars’ IOUs grows. Time passes, seniority and power grow. Damn, what a country!
Of course, the Founders never envisioned a professional political class. The closest they came was the Senate. But until the Seventeenth Amendment came along, Senators were beholden to their respective states, representing the collective interests, not needing the votes and contributions of everyone and everything else.
I think we can all agree the status quo is, indeed, a mess. The ‘system’ at present does not encourage statesmanship or deep, forward-thinking wisdom; the ‘system’ incentivizes total focus on the next election.
Seems there are two options, but with three potential outcomes.
Number 1: the status quo; enough said.
Number 2: a constitutional change allowing for some sort of term limits. Oh, it sounds so appealing, but what could we expect in terms of an outcome? The answer seems obvious, but is it, really?
Ideally, and it’s the conventional wisdom’s operating assumption, term limits would attract candidates whose goals are not to become permanent members of the political ruling class; by definition, one would not exist. They would be focused on doing the ‘right thing’ knowing in a fixed number of years they would be going home.
But here, my deep cynicism kicks in…it’s taken over 50 years to develop.
The question I pose: would term limits actually attract a different type of politician; or, would the same type politicians be running, but possess a more keen skill set, allowing them to grab power, set themselves up for their next job, and dramatically grow their personal net worth…just in a shorter period of time?
Is it possible that we could actually elect politicians who have the talent to greatly accelerate the corruptive process? Ugly thought.
There you have it, my conundrum. I would appreciate your comments and sincerely hope you can dissuade me of at least some of my cynicism.
Author, “Powers Not Delegated”…a conservative political thriller
…What Could Have Been and Might Still Be
Available November 2012