...if you want campaign reform, don't ask people
who had to campaign in order to be elected
and who benefitted from the present system.
I mean, really, you'd have to be pretty stupid.
Really, amazingly stupid.
Republicrat stupid, even.
I like it! Nice bounce, crunchy sound. Plus it's logical; regretfully one expect people in general, base as they are, and especially politicians, to work in their own self interest to the detriment of society.
I just think you happen to be factually wrong. Under some rather rare conditions politicians find themselves climbing on a popular bandwagon even when they know it's gonna hurt. If you can somehow get the voting masses worked up over a political issue - no matter whether serious or trivial, mean or benevolent, feckless or forethoughtful - it becomes possible for them to force U.S. politicians to change their minds; I've seen it at least thrice in my lifetime, civil rights, Vietnam, and term limits.
That the politicians ever reverse themselves on an important issue, that fact constitutes a logical proof. If a policy, any policy, is in a particular politician's interest, then its opposite is opposed to that self interest, right? (Let's assume that the issue at hand is of weight to a politician; your rep could flipflop on some minor bill, like funding a highway somewhere out of state, without it affecting his popularity with the voters at home much. Obviously this wasn't the case with high-emotionality issues like civil rights or Vietnam.) Now whenever you see a politician has changed sides, then either before or after you have to assume he was responding, against his own inclination, to voter pressure. For the obvious reason that the voters at home are all worked up over this issue, and to vote against their inclination means they will resentfully unelect our representative, almost as if they feel he is obliged to, like, represent them.
It's that voter pressure that gives citizens the hope that they can overcome the political caste's built-in bias on issues like campaign reform. If Mr. McCain can exude enough charisma (and he seems to be a fount thereof); if the somnolent DNC can bring themselves to get their disenfranchised 50.1% majority of voters to link in their minds the cancellation of the last election to campaign-bribery fraud (not exactly a logical connection, but what has logic got to do with voter enthusiasm?), if the voters can get half as worked up over camnpaign reform as they are over the usual moronic trivia that determines their votes, then maybe voter pressure will force our various reps to make at least a show of reforming the campaign finance process.
I mean, it worked for things like state congressional term limits. You have to assume that voting for the term limits laws like we've got in 18 states had got to be a painful experience for a state representative. Every one of them dreams about being like those great historical characters, for example Sam Rayburn who was Texas's Rep-for-life, and they know no matter what, under term limits they can never attain the status of a Sam Rayburn; you've got to have decades of seniority to attain that kind of power. Yet to vote against term limits would have been political suicide, so popular were they. "Thank heavens," their brothers in the Federal legislature must say, "for the Supreme Court, which annulled our term limits without us having to get our hands dirty!"
Even the leading functionaries of political parties, whose long term strategies transcend the interests of individuals, find themselves batting their heads in regret over having inflicted term limits as a blow against the opposition. Republicans, appalled by FDR's four terms, rammed through a constitutional amendment limiting presidential terms to two. Whereupon, for the remaining history of presidential elections, from 1947 to 1996, the only presidents who could have been reelected to a third term were all Republicans! (Of course, in 2000, presidential elections were simply abolished, the current Republican placeholder having been installed by coup.) On the converse side, remember it was the liberal branch of the Supreme Court which overturned term limits on Federal representatives in 1995; how they must today regret that decision, as it means that at least a dozen well-settled Republican incumbents would have been booted in '98 and '00, meaning, probably, a Democratic House and Senate, a counter-coup to balance the right-wingers's Dec. 12 coup.
I think term limits are stupid. Imagine the principle applied to any other enterprise. Here, for example, is an esteemed brain-surgeon. In the twelve years since he graduated from med school and took up practice, he has not only saved the lives of hundreds of patients but innovated new techniques. Time's up! And over here is a distinguished and experienced engineer; let's revoke his license after a statutory term, and give him a chance to take up a new field of work. House painters, and hospital nurses, and long-distance truck drivers - all these fields of endeavor could surely benefit from periodic, forced infusion of "new blood," and who's to say that creating the laws by which our nation is run is any more complicated than these professions? Plus, under our current system where what legislation that isn't composed in toto by industry lobbyists is written in congressional committees, any state which enacted term limits for its Federal representatives selflessly ensures that its congressmen will never lead any of those committees.
Rather than punishing the winners in elections, how's about Mencken's excellent suggestion to deal with the losers? Maybe we can get McCain to stump for this proposal:
...But barred out, he (William Jennings Bryan) suffered publicly and damnably, and his sufferings resolved themselves into a serious menace to public order and public decency...
The damage, of course, falls upon the country. It has to pay the cost of all these grotesque and indecent wars of revenge. It is damaged when a Hiram Johnson, boiling inwardly, become useless as a senator. It is damaged far worse when a Bryan hoists the black flag and declares a holy war upon all intelligence and decorum. The damage goes with the Democratic system. But is it inevitable? Is there no way of escape? I offer one at once. Let us have a Constitutional amendment providing that every unsuccessful aspirant for the Presidency, on the day his triumphant rival is inaugurated, shall be hauled to the top of the Washington Monument and there shot, poisoned, stabbed, strangled and disemboweled and his carcass thrown into the Potomac. What we'd have gained if that amendment had been on the books in 1896! and in 1912!
Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net
"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
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