by Mike Pyatt
Most Americans are in that mode after this rancorous election season. Those who’ve been around for more than one voting cycle recall the disparity between what candidates say on the stump, and how they behave, or govern once in office. Many have elevated expectations believing President-elect Trump’s not a run-of-the-mill politician. Will he govern to serve us, upholding our constitutional rights and liberty? Or is he just building a constituency. Is it possible to do both? It’s unlikely President Trump will be accused of fawning for the media. At the state or local level, there’s less of that. In remote Wyoming, media coverage is concentrated primarily in Cheyenne, where the governor and legislature garner media attention. Small towns generally rely on the local newspaper and citizen watchman.
Since our Founders framed this Republic, the notion of patriot citizens serving honorably, with rare exceptions, has diminished with the passage of time. There’s been a load of self-serving. Unfortunately, the constituency being served are too often large donors, money bundlers, political strategist, and a myriad of “invisible hands.” Much like the wind, we don’t see it, but surely feel it. A soft gentle breeze turned into a raging destructive force. “Drain the swamp,” became a Trump campaign mantra. Marshalling it may be harder than President Trump anticipated. One can be assured “swamp creatures” won’t leave without a battle.
In a post election speech, ousted Casper City Mayor, Daniel Sandoval, railed against voters, deriding them after he and three other council members lost their re-election bid. Rather than acknowledge the voters will, he concluded, “This year’s election was, in part, a spiteful slap in the face to the voters’ own local government.” Touting his over-rated popularity, he attributed his loss to voters “being grumpy.” Sandoval gratuitously claimed that by voting out vice mayor Steve Cathy, who was being groomed to take over as mayor, voters’ had effectively wasted that time. “How ungrateful is that?’ he accused. Grateful for financial recklessness?
Casper City Councilman Charlie Powell, one of two incumbents who survived re-election, lamented that “the public didn’t understand how much work it took to be on city council.” He reasoned they should be thanking them, rather than criticizing them. Powell and Sandoval’s arrogance was exceeded only by their ignorance of the voters’ savvy. Those defeated failed to convince voters of their worth, demonstrating their own political myopia. Departing Sandoval announced his plan to write another book. A suggested title, “Arrogance & Pomposity: A Guide to Losing Re- Election.” Occasionally voters get it right, rejecting out-of-touch profligate spending politicians, who are inordinately enamored with themselves.
A minimal form of government is a necessary evil, as the Founders’ acknowledged. Ludwig von Mises stated the dilemma succinctly, “The worst evils which man has ever had to endure were inflicted by governments. The state can be and has often been the main source of mischief and disaster.” The Right and Left prattle about “combating big government.” There’s a paucity of results. Don Quixote whimsically tilted at windmills waging a war for a “fairer and better world.” Are we conservative, liberty minded voters any wiser than Quixote? Is our work done?
Unfortunately, we’re often obsequiously distracted by good intentions. Daniel Webster must’ve had that in mind when he sternly warned, “It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
This 2016, cycle witnessed voters rejecting the liberal, progressive gimcrack. It’s one thing to be distracted. It’s rarely fatal. However, being led astray, as in the past eight years, proved constitutionally disastrous. Many fear Thomas Jefferson gave future generations too much credit, when he observed, “The good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves.” Is the election of Donald Trump a momentary course correction?
This phenomena isn’t isolated to national politics. Recently we’ve witnessed political mischief in Wyoming at the state and local level. GOP Central Committees behaving sophomorically. Natrona County Commissioners “hiding podiums” from public meetings. Embezzling Town Treasurers. Our former curmudgeon U.S. Senator extolling the virtues of same-sex marriage. Positively, we’ve witnessed entrenched legislative leaders unseated by novices to the political process. Where are the statesman? Someone suggested, “Politicians devour them.” Since 2008, we’ve questioned whether we could get a President that constitutionally liberty, minded citizens need. If such an event occurred, we’d have to hermetically seal them to avoid contamination. Political shelf life is short.
Is corruption inevitable in politics? What are the factors that lead to shifting from serving a constituency, to self-serving behavior? Since our founding, there’ve been loyal, self-effacing public servants who’ve carved their initials on the tree of “well done good and faithful servant.” Predictably, too many are listed in the “hall of shame.”
We err by thinking of corruption as only “evil and wicked behavior.” There’s a tendency to point a long bony finger at others we deem more corrupt than ourselves. Corruption’s first a state of mind. Perhaps our memories are too short and our standards too low. What’s our role in this aging dilemma? In this age of winking at corruption, with wrong getting “a pass,” we vex our own souls. Not returning scoundrels to office. Self-serving politicians obscure the principle of statesmanship. There’s a reason career politicians leave office with bulging waistlines and wallets, when cronyism and kleptocacy reign.
Increased patriotic participation in the public arena-not less-is warranted. A towering moral problem of our time has an antidote. Let’s cancel the lease on political apparatus, banality and apathy. Reinvigorating unvarnished truth. Being indefatigable in doing right. Opposing those who opt to do otherwise. Politics surely cast a shadow on our existence. However, we can remain unfettered by its shackles. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org