John F. Kennedy in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, narrated the stories of politicians who rose above any deceptions, and acted in a manner consistent with their core humanitarian beliefs. Some of those profiled were successful in convincing others of their beliefs and some were not. Those who were successful continued to advance their positions in public office and those who were not successful often had their careers as elected officials end. (Note: those whose elected careers ended were still often able to advance their positions outside of elected office).
Today this type of behavior from our leaders is more difficult. Honesty, integrity, and intelligence are ridiculed, minimized and marginalized. With very few exceptions, each member of Congress frames their positions within the limitations of dirty money, PAC's, winning the next election, dealing with a sensationalized media, a “post 9/11” world and corrupt world regimes. Unfortunately, deception has become the standard modus operandi of Congress.
A fine and typical example is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Colleagues and constituents greatly respect him. His web site touts his experience, leadership, and accomplishments. But, a closer look reveals nothing more than a typical politician going along to get along, ensuring another election victory.
Congressman Hoyer actions have negatively impacted individuals in Maryland and all across the nation. He has sold his office to the highest bidder. When questioned about lobbying reform prior to his becoming House Majority Leader, he stated it would be one of the first things done. Not only has there been no significant lobbying reform, but when further questioned about earmarks he reluctantly admitted he has no plans for ending the earmarks program.
Congressman Hoyer says all the right things about energy independence and supporting the American worker and a litany of other nice sounding phrases. But, the details show in the HR6 bill he voted to give tax breaks and incentives to oil and gas companies. He also supported the bankruptcy bill which seems to have only helped the credit card companies while devastating individuals who have lost everything through no fault of their own (usually a health care related issue).
His stance on the Iraq war and troop removal is based on what Congressman Hoyer stated was “building a consensus“. So, in the HR2206 bill he voted to fund a $100 billion more to the war effort with no withdrawal deadlines. Yes, Congressman Hoyer’s allegiance is not to telling the truth, not to informing public and not even his own opinions, but building a consensus. This is not a profile in courage. Mothers for generations have scolded their offspring, “so if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, you would to?”. As long as there is a consensus, the answer for Congressman Hoyer is “Yes“.
For many years, noted journalists and others have suggested the notion of term limits for all those in Congress. It hasn't happened and it won't. It's almost impossible even to get the issue on a ballot. Even if it did get to referendum, the old fearful tales of how "your" official has done such a great job of supporting your local economy (i.e. bringing home the bacon / pork barrel politics) would win out. "Throw the bums out" has become an ironic slogan. What it means to an individual voter is throw out all the other elected officials, but keep mine because they are good. The result, of course, is that incumbents are re-elected at well over a 90% rate unless they are found guilty of a crime or don't stand for re-election. "Throw the bums out" has translated to "Keep all the bums".
There may be a way to change this paradigm. It starts with the notion of not re-electing "your" congressman and senators. All of them. No exceptions. They are all guilty of either incompetence, willful neglect, or not being effective enough.
Don't be afraid. Politicians as a group are not that intelligent. Your local businessman, your local doctor, your local teacher, or your local stay at home mom or dad who are well versed on the issues will likely do a much better job. Strongly consider those who don't raise vast monies for their campaigns. Money buys access and influence.
Vote out YOUR congressman and senator in every election through 2012. It won't take more than a campaign cycle or two to have the desired impact.