Power, not party, is to blame for Congress’ ills
This has been a banner 12 months for the Republican denizens of Capitol Hill, one they are likely not to forget. Nor are the voters.
You have one GOP congressman, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, already in jail for taking bribes; and another one, Rep. Bob Ney, who will be joining him soon; and former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is facing dueling state and federal investigations.
And now you have Rep. Mark Foley, who by day championed the cause of protecting children from online predators, and by night lustfully pursued teenage boys for cybersex and more.
And what did the family-values party do when it learned that one of its own was a homosexual predator? They tried to hide it, lest the voters find out.
Now, it would be easy to sit back and brand the Republicans as a bunch of hypocrites, and trash everything they claim to stand for. But that would gloss over what the real culprit is.
Honestly, I can’t tell you that we wouldn’t have similar scandals if the Democrats had the same grip on government that the Republicans now enjoy.
It’s not the party that’s the problem. It’s power, the ultimate aphrodisiac and corrupter of people since the beginning of time.
How else do you explain how a party – whose base is universally hostile to homosexuality – could look the other way while a gay congressman preyed on teen boys in the halls of Congress? Power can lead people to ignore their core values, while at the same time lull them into thinking they are really just trying to do good.
All tyrants have claimed to have acted on the behalf of the people they enslave, for their own good, even as they exempt themselves from those very actions. The more power they possessed, the more corrupt they became.
The Founding Fathers saw the evils of unhindered power, and they did their best to make sure those evils were limited in the government that they created.
But I guess they never imagined the thirst for power we see in American politics today, embodied in the quest led by DeLay and campaign genius Karl Rove to create the “Permanent Republican Majority.”
We don’t need a Republican majority, or a Democratic majority. We need an American majority, representatives who do what the title implies. They are supposed to represent the people they serve, all of them, not just the ones who vote for them.
It’s perfectly acceptable for them to champion their ideologically based policies. It’s not acceptable for them to cut half the country out of the debate in order to shove those policies down our throats.
And as Republicans are finding out, once you cut out any meaningful opposition or oversight, then things go to hell real fast. How do these conservatives in charge now post the biggest deficits in history? How do they create new entitlement programs without a clue about how to pay for them? How do they decide that the rule of law and the Constitution don’t apply anymore?
Because they can. That’s power talking, loud and clear, principles be damned.
So, how do you stop it? First, you have to change the political equation in Washington. You aren’t going to see accountability if you continue to let the elephant guard the peanut warehouse.
Having all three branches of government in the hands of one party is a situation for which we should never wish again. Divided government, though sometimes very frustrating, works. There is real accountability, because each side keeps the other honest.
There needs to be at least one house of Congress in the hands of the Democrats to restore oversight to the system and halt the excesses of the last five years. And those responsible for those excesses need to be held accountable, lest either side thinks that these actions are excusable.
Democrats need to temper their zeal to prosecute Republicans for their misdeeds, with the notion that partisanship needs to be muted, to bring America together again. We are at war, and America needs to be able to stand united behind a shared vision, not one forced upon us by ideological extremists who can’t see past the next election.
• Kirk Caraway is editor of nevadapolitics.com, and writes a blog on national issues at kirkcaraway.com.