February 19th, 2010

The Arrogance of America’s Aristocracy

The theory of congressional stagnation refers to the high rate of retention for Congresscritters seeking re-election. In the 2008 election, for example, 94% of members of the House were re-elected, and 83% of incumbent Senators retained their seat.

The prevalence of this pattern has created an environment in which it has become customary to consider the position as belonging to that individual. This is not entirely unexpected, since an individual in the same position for one, two, or three decades is hard to separate from the position he holds. Most recently, then-candidate Scott Brown had to correct moderator (and notoriously statist) David Gergen for referring to the open Senate seat as belonging to Ted Kennedy. Applause ensued when Brown remarked, quite correctly, that it is “the people’s seat.”

That may seem obvious to many of my readers, but an entrenched system of incumbency has made it near impossible for the foggy-minded masses to separate the person from the position. Another manifestation of this unfortunate reality occurs every time an incumbent decides not to run for re-election. Witness the title of your average news story reporting on Senator Dodd’s recent decision: “Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd won’t seek reelection, will retire at end of term”. Of course, one of the more literal interpretations of the word ‘retire’ simply means to withdraw, retreat, or leave. However, the context in which this word is used in reference to multiple-term incumbents refers almost always to the more common definition: choosing to leave one’s job.

Evident here is the arrogance with which these modern-day aristocrats consider their circumstances. These news reports are only public examples of what numerous statements, policies, and actions on the part of the politicians themselves demonstrate—that is, an underlying belief, conscious or otherwise, that it is their seat. They revel in their power, they are comfortable in their position, and they correspondingly consider themselves entitled.

There are, of course, a select few who withstand this false sense of nobility and put in sober context the power with which they have been entrusted. These are the statesmen—a small minority among swarms of power-seeking and power-wielding politicians eager to do what such individuals do best: increase their power.

Power has only one end: to expand. Even a maintenance of the status quo is unacceptable since the enemy might be progressing, and so power naturally seeks to augment itself in whatever fashion to always remain in power. Along the way, the maneuvering politicians become further entrenched and ever more authoritarian. Who wouldn’t, when you can shape the lives of hundreds of millions of people through your legislation, back-room deals, and political favors?

The aristocracy must be torn down; its existence has only occurred through the indifference and apathy of average Americans who look the other way while their elected representatives side-step the restraints found in the Constitution, promote policies and programs for which the federal government has no moral authority, and accumulate a sizable war chest and a supporting network of like-minded aristocrats. The people must rise up against this abuse of authority and tear down the arrogance and power that have grown like weeds in the once-fertile soil of our Constitutional Republic.

6 Responses to “The Arrogance of America’s Aristocracy”

  1. The Writer
    February 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Interesting thoughts. A good reminder that it’s a republic, that we strive for a meritocracy, and that all representatives, or public officials, should be striving to remain responsible to the people and acutely aware that they are not entitled to their job, but serving in their position. It is, after all, public “service.”

  2. The Writer
    February 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    One more thought: I noticed your book list and perused some of your selections. If you like 1776 and John Adams by McCullough, you may also enjoy Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

  3. Clumpy
    February 20, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Another interesting point is here the role of familial ascension, like people taking a family job. Bushes, Kennedys and Clintons become celebrities within the field and become almost automatically considered as possible successors to positions when they come of political age. Part of this is probably excitement by association (people are in the limelight so they are taken more seriously than others – the only real reason Sarah Palin has any notoriety), though I really hope that we keep this trend in check – one reason I hope we don’t consider Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate, however qualified he may be (I have no idea, though I doubt it).

  4. Connor
    February 20, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    That’s a great point to bring up in addition. We’ve got a prime example here in Utah, with Bailout Bob Bennett whose father served four terms, and who is currently vying for re-election to a fourth term of his own.

  5. Isaac
    March 12, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    If you read Alexander Hamilton by Chernow, make sure you stay aware of his bias toward Hamilton and against Jefferson—that is to say, his bias toward mercantilism and against liberty. Otherwise, an informative book.

  6. Brad Carmack
    April 18, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    I love the alliteration in your post titles. Are you a college student in Utah, by chance? I wonder if we’ve crosses paths. P.S. I’ve done kiva too. :)

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