Bolstered by a series of recent events, I’ve come to a new theory about where this nation went wrong - politically speaking. That was when employment in Congress was allowed to become full-time.
Over the years, many events pointed to this fact. Created some thought. Created some talk. But the Las Vegas massacre- and the absolutely blank stare coming out of Washington in its aftermath - really drove it home.
While even the NRA felt moved to say SOMETHING post-Vegas, congressional Democrats - damned near all of ‘em - have kept their collective mouth shut. The best the Republicans have come up with is “Now is not the time to discuss this.” “NOT THE TIME?”
When Pearl Harbor was bombed, was our political response “Now is not the time” to talk about our new “relationship” with the Japanese empire? When London was bombed in ‘39-40 did Churchill say “Now is not the time to discuss it?”
With the streets of Vegas still wet with blood and the cries of the wounded filling the air, there was no better time. The Vegas mass killing was not the first in the last 50 years. Or even the 40th or the 105th or any number up to about 600. To most members of Congress, it was - ho hum - just another bad day on the streets. Pure B.S.
When those guys in Philly in 1776 were writing our most important founding document, they were “part-timers.” A lot of’ em had to take some occasional time off to go home and tend the crops or do store inventories or see if the church flock was still O.K.. They all had full-time responsibilities at home while sitting in a sweltering meeting room arguing about taxes and slavery. They intended the next Congress be part-time as well. And the Congress after that. And the next. And the next. Legislating was supposed to be something you did for a short time each year. Volunteer, as it were.
No more. For far too many years - far too many decades - the first concern of members has been job security. Not the needs of the country. Not dealing with the issue(s) de jour. Not tending to the real needs of the constituency. No. The topmost concern and the reason behind nearly every action taken - or inaction - has been continued employment.
I’ve fought tooth-and-toenail for years against term limits. And I’ve backed up that strident opposition with hard facts about the dangers of such a monumental shift in governance. I believe - with all my heart - service by anyone of no more than eight years in D.C. would open us to a whole new set of problems.
If we continue with this open-ended employment, we are going to further inbreed the political species with even less concern - much less contact - with the constituent. Us!
To the current denizen of the marble halls, lobbyists and billionaires have become THE “constituent.” Indeed, some members of Congress flat out refuse to meet with the folks at home. If you can’t flash a big check, many won’t even answer the phone. And, if your combination of cash and clout are large enough - say the NRA for the purposes of this discussion - no one at home who cast a ballot in the last election will even get a conscious thought. The “continued employment” autopilot will take over.
There is currently no issue - up to and including fulfilling the legal responsibility for declaring war - that can get the legally required attention of enough members to get the issue to the floor. We’re now in at least three undeclared wars without the constitutionally-required congressional authority. One of ‘em goes back 15 years!
Yes, there are still a few members who think and speak for themselves without the hands of a lobbyist up their backside. Good folks trying to do good jobs against an overwhelming tide of self-service. To suddenly go to term limits would certainly mean throwing out both the bath water and the baby. Damned shame.
But, if we don’t get control of this situation, continued electoral inbreeding will result in ever-distant governance and a “ruling class” with little to no concern for those ruled. Congress will become a self-perpetuating, intellectually vacant body from which voters will be separated.
I’ve been wrong on this issue. The time has come to apologize to the bathing youngster, open the nearest window and give a large heave ho.