The People Are Angry? You Don't Say

The office of congressman, senator, or governor is worthy of honor. Would to God that those who hold those offices thought so. The past few years have been a highlight reel of congressional bad behavior. Former Congressmen Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, and Mark Foley helped lead the Republican Party to its current low, and the misdeeds of Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and David Vitter (R-LA) haven’t helped matters.

The Democrats haven’t drained the swamp as promised. There’s been Senator Roland Burris’ (D-IL) many lies and deceptions. There’s been Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) getting sweetheart deals from Countrywide as “Friends of Angelo,” and for Dodd this is just the starting place for his long list of ethics problems. It didn’t take a jury long to convict former Congressman William Jefferson of accepting bribes, but Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats had no problem allowing him to continue to serve in the U.S. House despite the overwhelming evidence. Foley’s successor, former Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), turned last year’s election into a soap opera.

Then we have former Democrat Governors Elliot Spitzer (D-NY) and Rod Blagojevich (D-IL).

If politicians are treated with contempt, it is because they, as a class, have behaved contemptuously. Members of both parties have shown a high tolerance for corruption. The public tends to view members of Congress as oversexed middling figures on a power trip, perhaps hoping to earn big money as a lobbyist after their time in Congress. The public mostly accepts the corruption of Congress as a fact of life, electing incumbents on the philosophy of “better the devil you know.”

However, when people we distrust and view as corrupt start wanting to mess around with our health insurance coverage while running an annual deficit of nearly $2 trillion, many are justifiably angry and will show it.

I wouldn’t urge shouting down members of Congress. I would much prefer sarcasm as a response to the demands of Speaker Pelosi. Go to a town hall meeting and begin your statement with an obsequious “my liege lord” or “if it pleases your excellency.” Maybe curtsy for them.

What’s becoming apparent to the American public is that we have an imperious Congress full of big egos and little minds, greedy, near-sighted people who are drowning future generations in debt and have the gall to demand that people calm down.

To fix their image, Congress would have to lower its tolerance for corruption and in a purposeful way make itself worthy of the public’s respect. But it’s almost certainly too late for that now. What was seen as benign corruption is now properly viewed as a danger to the health, safety, and happiness of ordinary Americans. Democrats should brace for an electoral bloodbath a year from now.

The GOP should take note. In choosing the candidates who will try and make that bloodbath happen, Republicans should choose people who will increase the stature of Congress in the eyes of the public rather than the insincere flimflam that too often ends up carrying an (R) label to Washington.