Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another historic election

Two years ago, following the election of President Barack Obama, we heard the word "historic" thrown around a lot in the media. There was good reason for it, and despite my complete opposition to the policies of this very anti-life president, I don't grudge the term.

Tonight, though, we've seen another historic election, as the Republican Party made its biggest gains in the House of Representatives since they won 80 seats in 1938. As I write this, Republicans will add at least 60 seats to their previous total, placing them comfortably well beyond the mere 218 needed for a majority.

I tend to be a little bit cynical about politics. I like Mark Shea's way of describing things: we have the Stupid Evil Party (10% less evil than the other guys!) and the Evil Stupid Party (10% less stupid than the other guys!)--and which is which will depend on whether you are a partisan in favor of one or the other. I myself have occasionally thrown around the word "kakistocracy," which means government by the least qualified or the most unprincipled citizens, because I think that's what inevitably results from a political system designed overwhelmingly to elevate wealthy lawyers to public office.

Seeing things the way I do, the worst evil that can befall the Republic is for too many people who actually agree with each other to hold the reins of power in our nation's capital. The dirty little not-so-secret is that far too many of our nation's movers and shakers really do agree with each other, despite the little "R" or the little "D" next to their names--because they are wealthy lawyers who went to the same schools, absorbed the same lessons, and believe altogether in the mysterious coincidence that the most pressing, urgent need of the country is going to be something that somehow magically enriches them, or their friends, or gives them the kind of credentials that will land them in really cushy jobs once they get out of politics.

So, while I'm not as hopeful as I might be that this election will really give us the hope of change, or anything like it, I know that at the very least there will be a certain amount of bickering and partisanship as the (mostly) lawyers jockey for positions in the new order, so that when (one day) it's their turn to be voted out of office by a disgusted and weary electorate, they'll land on their feet with catlike resource. In the mean time, in all the chaos a pro-life initiative or two might sneak in, or a tea party candidate might manage to disturb just enough of the status quo to keep the two parties at loggerheads long enough to prolong the legislative stalemate so that we'll all be safe.

Two final thoughts, for the night (or, rather, early morning): first, I'm more convinced than ever that a Constitutional amendment setting term limits for Congress would be a good idea; if nothing else, the sudden, high demand for lawyers to run for the House would solve the problem of unemployed lawyers deciding to sue their alma maters for fraud.

Second, I'm glad that the election season is over--for now. Look for ominous signs after the first of the year--signs that bear messages like one I saw earlier this evening, which read, "I can see 2012 from my House."


Melanie B said...

"Seeing things the way I do, the worst evil that can befall the Republic is for too many people who actually agree with each other to hold the reins of power in our nation's capital."

Studying the Federalist Papers in college led me to the conclusion that the founding fathers pretty much felt the same way and designed the government to make it as hard as possible to get things done. I always laugh when people bemoan the fact of a deadlocked Congress or a do-nothing government. Yep, that's the idea: Don't make it easy for them.

Patrick said...

Term limits for Congressmen just means lobbyists would have the institutional know-how, and that Congressmen would be even *less* responsible with long-term (fiscal, foreign policy, etc.) health and less concerned with the legislative branches institutional checks on the other branches. If a Congressman was term-limited, why *wouldn't* they spend their time setting up their next job, which naturally would include voting with corporate/banking interests?

The best example of Senators-for-life working out for the good is Robert Byrd and the Iraq War. In 2002, all the young, scared Democrats were eager to send other peoples' kids to die for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Byrd, who was a permanent Senator who voted during the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution back before 'Nam, was able to lead opposition to a war that ended up a colossal mistake. It didn't stop the war, but the Senators-for-life knew this was a boondoggle and weren't worried about their seats.

You can't design a system of government that will work no matter how decadent the citizenry becomes - and term limits would make it worse, in my opinion.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I agree with about 90% of what you said, even though we might quibble about exactly what is evil and exactly what is stupid. I share Patrick's skepticism about term limits. There is already far too much for legislators to try to keep on top of. Often, the lobbyists are the only ones who read the draft bills.

If anything, I would like to see a much large House of Representatives, which could divide the work up into a larger number of committees (with darn near the power to pass a law in their area of expertise) and somewhat larger subcommittees to do the real work. That would also mean representatives would be closer to a smaller number of people they represent, and stay in closer contact.

Sometimes, we really need government to get something done, like building a nationwide network of high-speed maglev trains. You can't get that through a gridlocked polarized congress -- as the half-hearted experiment with short rail links this year is showing.

Finally, I believe the part of the electorate that really swings elections one way or the other is acting like a pack of people trapped in a room growing slowly warmer (or colder). Every time someone spots a possible exit, everyone rushes to it - only to be disappointed, and rush off to another possible exit.