Congressmen: Help Us to Help You

Years ago talk of term limits was all the rage when discussing the restoration of American democracy.  I think it’s time to bring such talk back.  Much of the current economic crisis can be laid at the steps of the Capitol building, but we keep electing them over and over.

Just this morning on the way to take the kids to school I heard on NPR that Obama  is definitely going to nominate NH senator Judd Gregg as commerce secretary.  Of course this speculation has been in the news and the hold up was that Gregg did not want his seat to go to a democrat.  Apparently they worked out a deal because both NRP and the AP are reporting this morning that:

Nevertheless, it’s all but certain Lynch will choose a Republican, probably Bonnie Newman. She is a veteran of the Reagan White House who served as Gregg’s chief of staff during his House tenure. Under such a plan, Newman would not run in the 2010 election for the Senate seat. [emphasis added]

NPR added that the reason Newman would not run in 2010 was so that a democrat would have a chance!

If incumbency is such a powerful force that in 2 years time a person would have a lock on a seat–which is basically what happens each time a new person is elected to the House–then we have a problem, and that problem must be part of the nature of democratic elections.

Perhaps there’s some political mechanism embedded into the very structure of democratic elections the way certain people have biological mechanisms which predispose them to addictions.  I don’t know, but it is a political fact that elections advantage the incumbent.

It’s also self-evident that the temptations inherent in power are so strong that few are ever able to resist them for long.  From Richardson to Geithner to Daschle it is clear that we won’t have change in this administration; we won’t have reform.

We can’t because just as the addict becomes controlled by his addiction the politician becomes controlled by a self-interest to remain in power.

Meanwhile, we have Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who safely crash lands–or should that be crash floats?–a plane into the Hudson and then calls the library to tell them he can’t return the book on professional ethics he had borrowed.

That’s the kind of person we need in office, but it would be wrong to leave him there long.   Human nature is such that no one can avoid corruption, even in a decent and well-structured system.

Many of our elected representatives are honorable, decent women and men who go into politics with a genuine and noble desire to serve the people.  We owe them gratitude and honor (in the same way we owe it to the men and women in uniform), but we rarely give it because they overstay their welcome.  But, just like those who go into combat need respite and relief–and still will never fully heal emotionally and spiritually even if they are never wounded–so our elected representatives need to be helped by relieving them of the temptation to power.

Someone who day after day exposes himself to a toxin for the good of others can not walk away if that toxin is compelling and addictive.  George Washington was able to do it, but he was the exception who proves the rule.  The rest of them need our help.  They can not do it themselves.

We need a Constitution amendment.  Congress has to propose it.  “Ay, there’s the rub.” They have to commit political suicide, and just like with Hamlet it may be  “a consummation Devoutly to be wished,” but the dreams that may come when they have shuffled off their political coils give them pause.  And so, “That makes calamity of so long a [political]  life.”

There must be enough of a grassroots outcry that they are forced to deal with their addiction.  We need a national intervention for their sake and ours.