2012 Elections Must Punish Poor Leadership

In the 2012 elections, voters need to send a message to Washington that we object to the destructive paralysis championed by disrespectful and uncompromising legislators. 

Americans want lawmakers to be responsive to their needs, minimize petty power plays and assume responsibility for earlier decisions that need to be rescinded because they are bad for the country. The U.S. must demand more from its leaders and punish them at the polls if they do not respond. Legislative seats should not be treated like lifetime appointments; long-time incumbents are the ones principally responsible for the abuses we observe today ranging from ethical violations to just not listening to constituencies. Campaign reform will ultimately be the way we decrease the unacceptable level of special interest influence. Career politicians have served us poorly. They have entrenched themselves using campaign contributions from special interest groups, financed unjust wars with taxpayer money and obstructed the operation of our government.

The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that 2012 campaign spending for the presidential, congressional, and state elections may exceed $6 billion. This kind of spending is a travesty and has afforded tremendous influence to large donors. Because the Constitution protects the rights of individuals to make contributions to their candidates, Congress should attempt to limit the amount each candidate can spend instead. Powerful incumbents are the offspring of tenure. These men and women are beholden to special interests. Without the support of PAC’s and wealthy powerbrokers, they would have a much more difficult time winning elections. In the same vein, enactment of term limits would end the reign of career politicians and mitigate the influence of big money donations even further.

The American landscape is similar to what it was during the Vietnam War when Congress supported another undeclared war that most Americans objected to. The most important difference is that there is no draft today, so the military heavily recruits lower socioeconomic volunteers. Because less influential voters are the principal combatants in these wars, Congress was able to accede to the wishes of two presidents to unjustly exercise military force against other nations. The conflicts were funded as Congress effectively disregarded the horrendous loss of lives and the impact the wars have had on our national debt.

Obstructionism by members of Congress is overwhelming our political system. When a party wins an election with a clear majority, it should be able to govern without unproductive parliamentary interference. The Senate filibuster effectively has changed the majority of that body from 51% to two-thirds, making new legislation nearly impossible. The filibuster was originally adopted to protect the smaller states in the union. Today, it is used abusively to disrupt the legislative process. It is the duty of Congress to modernize its rules, especially if existing procedures make it too difficult to enact new legislation. The current minority party will never agree to update the filibuster, so America will continue to be subjected to congressional stagnation into the foreseeable future.

We need to select candidates who understand the issues. Further, amity and collegiality are missing from the important debates occurring in Congress today. If a lawmaker is unable to work with his colleagues he or she should be ostracized and voted out in the next election.  

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