Obama, The State of the Union and Career Politicians

31 Jan, 2010 | by
Topics: Economy, Politics

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I tend to shy away from politically focused posts as the feedback is generally overly intense, sometimes irrational and usually futile.  It’s almost as bad as trying to discuss the perennially hot topic of religion.  The discussion always begins amicably enough, but it inevitably seems to devolve into senseless argument.  I think Oscar Wilde said it best:  “Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing”. 

After watching the recent State of the Union address (embedded below; please watch it if you have not…It’s worth it) I felt compelled to share a few thoughts, given that much of the  focus of the speech is centered on the economy.  A harsh reality is that politics and business are firmly joined at the hip, whether you want to believe that or not.  A clear example of this would be the special bond between corporate entities and career politicians.  How many times have you heard of “gray-area” reciprocities that have transpired over the past few decades alone?  You know what I mean – transactions that just didn’t seem to pass the common sense test.  Remember the cozy relationship between Halliburton and former Vice President Dick Cheney?  Wiki “Political scandals of the United States,” and you’ll get a flavor of just how extensive the list is. 

I know, I know … you’re probably thinking I’m heading down the path of “all politicians are criminals” stereotype.  That’s really not my intention here, so please bear with me.  We all know that political malfeasance is much more commonplace then it should be.  When was the last time you had that following thought running through your head after news of a scandal broke:  “Wow, I can’t believe he or she would do something like that”?  It’s almost expected these days.  The only questions are:  “How egregious is the act?” and “Will the public ultimately accept the indiscretion for what it was?”  It’s that simple; however, variables that dictate the public’s appetite for forgiveness is not.  Blagojevich = Bad, Clinton = Not so bad or even good.  Go figure.

 

Public scandal has always been easy for John Q. Public to judge.  It doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong:  Perception has a tendency to prevail in the end.  What is difficult to judge is the inherently flawed underlying system.  It’s especially challenging if there’s never been a baseline or historic trend for comparison.  In an ideal world, our government would be composed of actual civil servants who genuinely care (at least in most cases) about the best interests of our nation.  It would be a role seen as a calling, not a career.  In such a systerm, where the public good takes precedent over personal ambition and a thirst for power, term limits would be unnecessary.  It would make perfect sense to keep sincere, red-blooded patriots in the House or Senate for as long as possible.  However, this ideal governance model has fostered the evolution of something sinister, but far less glamorous, than a juicy public scandal.  The output is an obvious deep-rooted polarization that has done nothing but enable complacency and prevent progress.   

A very close friend of mine captured the essence of my exact sentiment, which I’d like to share.  The passion behind his words are almost palpable.  Thanks for sharing Joe!

Joseph Rasamny:

“…I found myself just becoming more and more frustrated as I watched the state of the union address. I wasn’t so much annoyed with the president as with the entire situation this country is in politically, fiscally and intellectually.

In fact I thought that it was a solid state of the union, and I believe the president nailed on the head why true change is almost impossible today. America is in a perpetual election cycle, the media feeds on this cycle and the average person is bored of it. Both parties rely almost fully on a fanatical base and relish the status quo.

It used to be that the political pendulum would swing from left to right, and as it reached its apex on each side political and national progress would be made. Today this just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore; we are mired in the middle, neither party wanting to upset their base while at the same time trying to pander to the middle.

I am not sure what the solution is, or even if there is one, however what I do think is that we need an imposed term limit on the house and senate of a single term, no re-elections period. I think that is the only way to get the career politicians out and get true civil servants back in, people who truly want to help this country, not rob it blind.

He said he won’t give up, but sadly I think the people are.”

 

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5 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Nelson Lee Walker
    January 31st, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    Congress will never allow us to constitutionally term limit them by an amendment to the Constitution. But we can make term limits happen in spite of them by following 4 steps in the next 3 Congressional elections (‘10, ‘12, ‘14):

    1. Don’t reelect anyone in Congress. Get all your friends to do the same.
    2. Always vote, but only for the strongest challengers regardless of party .
    3. If your incumbent runs unopposed, vote for his strongest challenger, regardless of party. Especially, never reelect an unopposed incumbent!!
    4. If Congress has not passed a term limits bill by 2014, repeat this in ‘16, ‘18.

    Our only choice is to NEVER REELECT them. All of them! They will definitely get the message, sooner rather than later.

    The only infallible, unstoppable, guaranteed way to get a truly new Congress and a new politics is NEVER REELECT ANY INCUMBENT! DO IT EVERY ELECTION until term limits is ratified. In other words, don’t let anyone serve more than one term until Congress passes a term limits bill!

    The number of ‘good guys’ left in Congress is negligible, so if we threw out ALL 535 members, we would gain by turning Congress into a bunch of honest, innocent, inexperienced freshmen.

    NEVER REELECT ANYONE IN CONGRESS. DO IT EVERY ELECTION!

  2. Joseph Rasamny
    January 31st, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    A response to Never Re-Elect:

    Though I thoroughly agree with the theory that any politician holding a seat too long inherently increases the potential for corruption, I do not completely agree that one simply votes for the opposing party for the sake of change alone. I offer an example: imagine a voter, who is pro choice, this person is going to find it very hard if not impossible to vote for a campaign which is running as pro-life / anti-abortion (I hate these classifications, I know not one pro-choice person who is anti-life or pro-abortion but I digress). Thus convincing this voter of the greater good that any change will bring is going to be rather difficult. I would suggest this method would work best in a party’s primary process, if it was thoughtfully planned and executed, a voting public could enact change by always voting down an incumbent within the party primary, this would ensure fresh blood at every election while allowing the voter to maintain their deep held beliefs and moral code.

    Along with the need for a constitutional amendment which obviously is no small task, there are other difficult issues to resolve within a no re-election political system. If there is going to be a single term limit, how long should this term be? In the house for instance, representatives only hold their seat for 2 years, if there was no chance for re-election this would not nearly be enough time to pursue the people’s business and would need to be extended, but for how long? Perhaps there needs to be a middle ground where by a single re-election is allowed similar to the executive branch of the government.

    What laws would need to be enacted to ensure that politicians do not attempt to use their one chance to game the system? Should there be some form of independent oversight of the legislative branch, if so how would this affect the separation of powers? Perhaps the media could fill the role of overseer, making it their duty to call out inept or corrupt politicians.

    No matter what form of term limit is enacted I believe it will serve to benefit this country. I believe it will open up the political arena to an increase of parties, perhaps regional and local parties beginning to play a role in national politics. This is one reason why it will be enormously difficult to push this agenda, the two political parties (or as some believe the two branches of the same political establishment) are too entrenched in the psyche of the American public, they have successfully advanced the perception that American democracy, true democracy, is a democracy with only two parties.

    I stated in my original post that perhaps the American people are beginning to give up; I hope this proves to be more drama then fact and instead the American people are becoming fed up with our continuing cycles of extremes. If the later is true then change could be achieved, as difficult as it may be.

  3. Nelson Lee Walker
    February 9th, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    Joseph, My response of a week ago was incorrectly addressed. Please forgive the delay. the reply follows

    Your thoughtful response to my Never Reelect piece has made me reconsider the format of my position,
    and I must thank you for prompting me to clarify my point.

    The sole objective of the Never Reelect strategy is to overcome the fact that Congress has an ironclad
    defense against any attempt to term limit them. It is only a temporary tactic to reduce the 95% reelection rate
    of career politicians so that we can get enough freshmen into Congress so that a term limits bill becomes possible. The revised statement is now as follows:

    A Congress of career politicians will never allow us to constitutionally term limit them by an amendment. But we can impose term limits on them by taking these steps in the coming Congressional elections (‘2010, 2012, 2014):

    1. Don’t reelect your Congressman or Senator. Get friends to do the same.
    2. Always vote, but only for the strongest challenger regardless of party .
    3. If your incumbent runs unopposed, vote for his strongest challenger, regardless of party. Especially, never reelect an “unopposed” incumbent!!

    If Congress has not passed a term limits bill by 2014, repeat this in 2016, 2018.

    Our only intelligent choice is to NEVER REELECT any of them! They will definitely get the message, sooner rather than later.

    The only infallible, unstoppable, guaranteed way to get a truly new Congress and a new politics is NEVER REELECT ANY INCUMBENT! DO IT EVERY ELECTION until term limits is ratified. In other words, don’t let anyone serve more than one term until Congress passes a term limits bill!

  4. Peter Botting
    May 14th, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Good article and great contribution from Joseph.

  5. Nelson Lee Walker
    May 14th, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    After several years of pushing for a term limits amendment to the Constitution and finally realizing that Congress will simply not allow it to happen, I finally have resigned myself to selling the idea of NEVER REELECTING ANYONE IN CONGRESS, and do it every election.

    It is the only infallible, guaranteed, unstoppable way to impose term limits on Congress.

    And it doesn’t need an amendment !

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