What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: The Library of Congress
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.