by Mike Pyatt
Only a few political races are undecided after the mid-terms. Florida’s infamous Broward and Palm Beach counties, where a $178,000 a year Election Supervisor can’t count-and apparently neither can the machines. Election laws and time lines are merely suggestions. In Congress Nancy Pelosi’s positioned to commandeer the House Majority job. For the few apposing her, it comes with a warning label. GOP’s Kevin McCarthy prevailed as Minority Chief. Drew Carey’s envious of the deals made in those two chambers. We do know that both side’s attorneys can count. They’re on the clock 24-7. No matter who you’re rooting for, it’s business as usual.
Some recall the classic 1996 movie, Shawshank Redemption, where an exchange between Ellis Boyd Reddy, aka, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, and a 1967 Parole Board Officer, regarding Red’s status of “rehabilitated.” The youthful looking officer asked Red, “Do you feel you have been rehabilitated?” Red replied, “Rehabilitated? Well now let me see. You know, I have no idea what that means.” The officer replied, “Well, it means you’re ready to return to society.” Red’s retort is apropos, “I know what ‘you’ think it means, sonny. To me it’s just a made up word. A politician’s word, so young fellas like you can wear a suit and tie, and have a job.” Red understood politics.
We not only pay for our politicians attire, and their job, they spend our money, that we don’t have, driven in large measure, by careerists impulses. And, they routinely govern in a way that’s inimical to our best interest. The 22nd Amendment set term limits on the Office of the President of the United States by Congress in 1947, and ratified by the requisite number of states in 1951, prompted in part by FDR sweeping a fourth term, and subsequent death in office. Many support the idea to impose term limits in both Houses.
Opponents of such an amendment argue it erodes the continuity to “get things done,” having “seasoned veterans” and “professional legislatures.“ Not surprisingly, many of those are also career politicians, like Senator Orin Hatch, Utah, longest serving GOP Senator. The task would be daunting, requiring a constitutional amendment, and 27 state legislatures to pass it, and 38 states must ratify it. Proponents of term limits tout it would dramatically alter stalemate and gridlock in Washington and introduce fresh ideas. There’s no correlation between length of service and getting the people’s work done. Wyoming’s Senator Enzi has been there since 1997.
Redistricting, campaign financing rules, and the high cost of entry to new candidates, have resulted in “safe districts” with intransigent legislators focused on bolstering their careers, demonstrating a recalcitrant stance on the sentiment of the people they represent. With seniority comes chairmanships and committee appointments to embellish the political resume. A 2017, Rasmussen phone survey found nearly 75% of Americans polled favor term limits on all members of Congress. Bills to limit terms routinely languish and die in committee.
It has been said that a more informed electorate cures many of these seemingly impenetrable “political ills.” The outlook on that rainbow is murky. Only death was able to unseat some of the most entrenched career politicians. Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat, W.VA., longest serving Senator in history, occupied his seat for 51 years. He died in 2009 at the age of 92. Byrd never met a tax hike or government entitlement program he didn’t like, while wielding their liberal spending influence with negligible challenge in their districts. GOP members aren’t spend-thrifts either. Those who speculated his friends would have to carry John McCain out of the Senate chambers were right. 78 year old, Maxine Waters, House member since 1990, net worth is estimated at $5 million. The LA Times, in 2004, reported her relatives made over $1 million by doing business with her cronies.
Syndicated columnist, George Will, in his 1992 book, Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberate Democracy, noted our founders understood what was and wasn’t federal responsibility, unlike our career politicians. He described our current dilemma, “Once you loose the sense that not everything is the federal governments business, the flood gates are down, and everything in American life becomes fair game for career politicians to use the federal government’s omnipresent, omniprovident role to bolster their careers.”
Rather than voters picking their representatives, through computerized gerrymandering and redistricting, politicians now pick their electorate. Most astute observers of politics know, though some are loathe to admit it, there’s a strong link between political campaign fundraising and congressional term limits. Political insiders craft rules to enhance their longevity. While many conservatives believe that “campaign contributors” should not forfeit their First Amendment speech rights, many counter that there is no constitutional right to bribery and extortion, which likely accounts for a portion of the money raised for campaigns.
Former Vice President, six term Senator, Joe Biden, was marketed in 2008 as “average Joe” when chosen as Obama’s running mate. He masqueraded as the mythical “friend of the underdog” while living the lifestyle of the consummate Washington insider, relaxed in his $3 million, custom made, lake front home in Delaware, paid for with generous help from wealthy bankers, executives and developers. A lifestyle of privilege that’s anything but average. It was President Ronald Reagan who quipped, “Politics is suppose to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” Perhaps Nevada voters were on to something electing deceased Brothel owner Dennis Hof to the state assembly. They’ll not have to pry him out of that seat.
To be clear, money isn’t the villain. Often misquoted, the Scriptures clarify, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That “love” drives legions of career politicians “to serve.” Late 18th Century lawmakers were glad to get out of living in a congested rooming house in smelly, disgusting cities. Other than junkets and vacations, it’ll take a dozer, major scandal, or death to pry the political malingerers from those seats. Let’s make them temporary-no benefits! What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. Get in touch with Mike.