Why is it that the United States Congress is the object of scorn and low approval and yet incumbents enjoy such a high rate of re-election? Could it be the answer is found within our own Declaration of Independence?
Much has been written about the power of the incumbency, the financial advantage wrought and wrung from the power of the office. Money is tossed at the feet of elected officials by powerful and motivated special interests funding massive campaigns to preserve a position of privilege.
There is ample evidence and little doubt that the incumbent members of the U. S. House of Representatives and U. S. Senate have stacked the deck to their own advantage when it comes to re-election campaigns. Public service has morphed from a temporary devotion to public service into a financially rewarding career.
Our founding fathers three times rejected the idea of term limits while writing our Constitution, deciding more frequent elections would better maintain the will of the people. Times have changed and the motivation for public service is not altruistic, today we most often see it as a life career choice.
So why do we allow the incumbents of an institution we are dissatisfied with to continue to represent us? The answer is not simple; however, there are some things to consider.
Unlike our forefathers that lived in a society of self-reliance and personal responsibility today there is far greater dependency on government and an abdication of personal responsibility. We see this change manifested in liability lawsuits and generations dependent on government financial support for everyday living.
These societal changes are also reflected in a reluctance of accepting responsibility for shortcomings that in the past would have been seen as personal responsibilities. Hence, when Congress fails to perform well, the disappointment is rarely directed at the person for whom you voted, but rather for the other members of Congress. In this way the abdication of self-responsibility aids the incumbents.
Change can be difficult, after all we know what we have in Congress and to some degree even mild disdain is easier to accept than the unknown of a potential replacement candidate. Did our founding fathers recognize this human trait?
Apparently their understanding of this human frailty was apparent as they thought about the relationship with England and considered a change to sever the ties and move to independence. It is within our Declaration of Independence we find these words, “Experience hath shewn, mankind are more disposed to suffer when evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed“.
The insight of our founders did not extend to modern day incumbents or the evils we seem to find sufferable. One must consider just how dysfunctional Congress must become before we hold our own Congressman accountable for his contribution to our suffering.