For the past hundred or so years this country has been cultivating a political elite that is far different from the politicians that preceded them. At the federal level we have politicians that have spent their entire adult life spending other people’s money. To them the exercise of power, and the gain from influence, far outweighs whatever desire to serve may have originally spurred them into the public office.
For example, take Harry Reid, D-NV, who comes from Spotlight, Nevada and has held political office since he graduated from Law School. He has served in the Congress since 1983 (33 years, which is not even close to the longest serving members). To borrow a line from Garret Morris and SNL, as a life time public servant public service has been very, very good to Harry. He has managed to acquire between $3-10 million dollars through shrew investments in companies he would write legislation for or against, or land deals of questionable legitimacy. When in charge of the Senate he stood as a rock to block any and all legislation that was not liked by the President.
It appears the members of the Democratic party love to govern and once an individual joins the club they will stay for as long as possible. [i] An interesting note about this list of career politicians is Senator Strom Thurman, who up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a staunch Democrat, so we come all the way down to 17th position before we see a Republican as a life member of the club.
Now to be fair, the Democratic party has for most of our history controlled the Congress, and the opposing parties (e.g Whigs and Republicans) have always had to challenge the popularity and power of that group.
So now we come to this next election; where once again we will pit one party’s candidate against the other. I don’t believe the question the average voter should be asking is, “who’ll make a good President” but rather, “do I want to continue with a dysfunctional and self-serving government?” For the only way to change the government is to change those who control it for the long term.
Unfortunately, this won’t happen because as much as Bernie Sanders would like to deny it we all make choices based on our self-interest, or greed. There is always that fundamental question, what is in it for me? For the average individual they will vote as they have always voted. If their “guy” is in the seat as their representative or senator they will feel good about it and they will vote to keep him or her in the seat, because their seniority will bring more federal dollars back to the district or state. If they don’t like the incumbent they may or may not bother to vote, giving the incumbent a clear advantage.
On the other hand, voting for the President, especially at the end of a term-limited regime, comes down to a basic choice – Do I like what the last guy did and want to continue, or do I want to change? This next election will be interesting for the Democrats because it seems unlikely that either Mr. Sanders or Ms. Clinton will spur the minority vote to the degree Mr. Obama was able to. So we come to the quadrennial Great Divide, what direction do we want our nation nation, and how will we move forward?
Finally, one last thought on an issue for both the Democrats and the Republicans. How much longer can this government exist spending money we just print for whatever pet project the party zealots love before the fundamental faith in the government to pay its debts disappears? This faith in government is the basis for our currency, and once that evaporates our currency will no longer be the basis of world trade.