There is something in the water in Washington, D. C. that transforms good men and women into self-serving elitist scoundrels. I think that special “something in the water” in our nation’s capital is a mixture of power, money, status, and privilege. In Congressional elections we choose people who claim they truly want to serve our country. And I believe some of them actually do, at least at first. But then they get to Washington, D.C. and get a taste of power, access to money, ego-boosting status, and the privilege of passing laws they themselves are not subject to and the headiness of it all becomes too much for them. In short order, they are hooked—Democrats and Republicans alike. The goal quickly changes from serving our country to self-preservation, staying in the office that provides the steady supply of those drugs that are stronger than heroin and cocaine combined: power, money, status, and privilege.
I have always thought the Jimmy Stewart movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, ended prematurely. When the movie ends, the Jimmy Stewart character—Mr. Smith—is still that idealistic, downhome, man of the people who wants to serve his country. Unfortunately, if the movie had a sequel it would probably be titled Mr. Smith Gives in to Temptation. Even Jimmy Stewart’s idealistic character—if he stayed in office long enough—would probably have been corrupted by power, money, status, and privilege. Consequently, the sequel would revolve around Mr. Smith struggling with the overwhelming desire to hold onto the perquisites of office at all costs.
This predictable transformation of good men and women into self-serving elitists committed more to their own self sustainment than to doing what is right for America is why I believe Congress must cure itself by establishing term limits, just as 38 states have done for their legislatures. There appears to be a honeymoon period after Congressional elections during which people who ran for office to serve the country actually attempt to do so. It takes a while for members of Congress to amass the kind of power, money, status, and privilege that transforms a public servant into a greedy elitist. With term limits, about the time the addictive effects of power, money, status, and privilege begin to have the predictable effect term limits kick in and solve the problem.
Charlie Reese, long-time columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, made several excellent points in his final column before retiring, points that are pertinent to the subject of this article. His first point was that “Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.” They pull this nifty little trick to sustain themselves in office. Think for example of sequestration, the national debt, unemployment, high taxes, etc. He makes another excellent point that it is not the 300 million Americans who elect members of Congress who make the policies that cause all of Americans economic and social problems. According to Reese, it is the “One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme court Justices…” These are the people who “are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.”
Reese made no distinction between Democrats and Republicans in his final column. To him they are all equally guilty of putting their own agendas and self-aggrandizement ahead of what is good for our country. I agree with him. I think it is high time to throw out every member of Congress and start over—this time with term limits.