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The Plight of Career Politicians

Time Spent in Congress

January 3, 2017 marked the start of The United States’ 115th Congress.

Fun facts:

  • 11/100 Senators have served more than 20 years. Shout out to Patrick Leahy elected in 1975 and Orrin Hatch in 1977.
  • 60/435 Representatives have served more than 20 years. Throw back to when Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis got elected in 1987… and never left… like so many others.

71 of our 435 Congressional representatives have been in that legislative body for more than 20 years. This is not a majority, but it may cause one to ponder career politicians.

It is cliché to call politicians liars, selfish, or self-aggrandizing. However, it is a logical conclusion that people seek job security and to protect/grow their wealth and power. Sticky situations often arise when politicians do this.

Politicians give politics a bad name when they turn on their voters for new constituents or when they are backed by special interests that do not have the public’s interest at mind.

It is a bit idealistic and maybe foolish to wish that we return to the model we had 200 years ago. But, the idea that Congress members should have other common jobs (farming, law practices, education, etc.) and then occasionally travel to DC to make laws to better their communities is a nice thought. This original system does highlight what public service means.

How can we force lawmakers to be more active on our behalf?

What are your thoughts?

7 replies »

  1. It isn’t a straightforward question. Sure, we can put in term limits and kick people out of office every few years, but would we be better served by having rank amateurs in office so often? I honestly don’t know, but just because someone is new to the job doesn’t necessarily make them more honest or effective. I could easily imagine that a newly elected politician, knowing they only had a few years before they would be forced out, would spend all their time working on their next job, be it a lobbyist or higher office. I live in a state where the governor is term limited. We don’t have a particularly great record of governors here, at least partially because they spend most of their time building their national profile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point. I have also thought about having ‘rookies” with a lack of political/governing abilities. If we were to implement term limits, my initial solution to prevent this is to allow a super majority vote by the people to allow truly good representatives to remain in office. I think campaign finance and lobbying reforms would help more than term limits.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First, Campaign Finance Reform, starting with the reversal of the Citizens United decision. Second, Lobbying Reform. As to term limits, I tend to agree with the previous comment. I’m not sure it would help all that much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm … I’d like to see an overhaul in how we elect politicians. Campaign finance would be a start. (Collectively over $6B was spent on the 2016 elections. $2B+ was spent on Presidential campaigns. Heh. How could we spend so much for so little?)

    I’d like to see more diversity and turnover in our representatives — the majority now are millionaires because who else can afford to take that kind of time out from a career? This was (IMO) a blind spot to the framers. They were (mostly) a collection of independently wealthy OWGs too.

    And then to the point of “rookies”. There are governmental responsibilities that are sufficiently advanced that again, IMO, we would be better served by government agencies removed from political cycles and politicians because continuity. Tech would be a prime example. Infrastructure another. (Could we create agencies similar to the design of the judiciary and the Federal Reserve? Hmmm …)

    You raise good questions and I’m enjoying your blog, Daniel. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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