Watching the battle on Capitol Hill last week reminded me once again how desperate we are for real leadership in our nation’s capitol. While many have been willing to assign blame and offer blow-by-blow details of the left vs. right fight, not too many have pointed out the larger problem. Our current “leaders” in Washington are making “deals” and signing bills that have never even been looked at by the American people. For that matter, forget accountability to constituents, these guys aren’t even reading the bills themselves. They are using political theatre and scare tactics to ram through big spending bills and then acting as if they deserve credit for averting disaster. That’s one way to run a country, but I think most Americans would rather see a different approach.
I believe the real fight is between the political class and the working class: the ruling elites are entrenched on one side, and the American people are taking the punches on the other. It’s time the American people fight back. Americans are tired of out of control government and the double talk that comes from career politicians who have put us in this fiscal tailspin.
For 59 years, two men have occupied the senate seat now held by South Carolina’s senior Senator Lindsey Graham. In fact, the end of his current term will mark his 20th year in Washington. Of course, 20 years of “service” isn’t enough for Graham, as he has already announced his intention to stay in the beltway for at least six more years. The question I have for those who have served in Washington for as long as he has is simple: how do you effectively represent people you haven’t worked with or lived beside for more than 20 years?
It has not always been that way. State legislatures around the country chose their senators until 1913. The 17th Amendment ushered in the direct election of senators in an effort to give the people a voice. However, it also gave rise to powerful special interests and gave us the lifetime politician. Some have suggested we simply return to the pre-17th Amendment model of legislative appointments to the U.S. Senate. Perhaps that’s an idea worth exploring, but I think there is a better answer: term limits.
Term limits would not only cap the number of years a specific person would serve in Congress, it would limit the power of lobbyists, corporations and other special interests that invest millions of dollars in the status quo. This unholy alliance with career politicians largely mutes the voice of the people. The reality is, even well-intentioned public servants become bogged down in the process of deal making, vote swapping and bringing home the bacon to remain in touch with the needs and desires of the people they represent.
Today, countless Americans have lost faith in our government. More specifically, I believe most Americans have lost trust in elected officials and the Washington, DC establishment. I often ask people I meet if they trust this government. The answer is almost always an emphatic no. Establishment politicians cannot be trusted with our tax dollars, our e-mail or phone records, and they certainly cannot be trusted with our healthcare. While the ruling class works to gain favor with the beltway crowd, who is looking out for the American people?
I have not lost hope. I believe we can fix the mess in Washington, but we need the right tools to make it happen. Term limits are a great place to start, but we also need bold leadership.