Commentary: Throwing all the bums out is a bad idea
My brother-in-law is a wonderful guy. Usually he’s very thoughtful, but sometimes he goes off the deep end.
He’s a former Marine aviator who was shot down over Vietnam, was rescued, and has since been plagued with a bad back caused by the violent seat ejection from his F-4. In civilian life he also was a very successful businessman; he and my sister retired several years ago to live a comfortable life in Southern California.
I believe he’s an independent, but is quite conservative. When visiting the family, and sometimes with e-mail exchanges, we discuss politics.
Most of the time the conversations are rational, but every once in a while he becomes enamored by what I consider to be some wacko idea. Of course, he would argue that I, too, have some wacko ideas. But his latest one has to do with “throw out all the bums – get rid of all the elected officials and replace them with some other person who is more like me.”
My brother-in-law, and those who advocate ideas like this, reason that every elected official is corrupt or unfit (whether they are or not) and should be voted out of office.
There are, indeed, some corrupt, immoral politicians; when discovered they should not be re-elected. However, most politicians work hard, are honest and try to serve their constituents to the best of their ability. In my view we should never fall into the trap of penalizing all for the misdeeds of a few.
Our democratic form of government, a representative republic, requires a well-informed and well-educated electorate – a Thomas Jefferson principle. This allows us to elect and re-elect those who represent us in our legislative bodies.
I personally have faith in well-educated, well-informed electorates. I don’t like the idea of term limits. I believe they are undemocratic, and perhaps unconstitutional. I understand the reason, but believe it’s a real mistake to dismiss the remainder of our elected representatives based on time served. Where a term limit exists, it should be challenged. As for “throwing out all the bums” at once, it deprives the voters of their rights.
When you have a complete turnover of elected officials (term limits as well) you run the risk of turning over the functions of government to staff. We don’t elect staff. And even when they have considerable knowledge, I, for one, feel more comfortable having control at the ballot box and allowing my elected representative to make policy and oversee non-elected staff.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.