Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not those of St. George News.
OPINION – The candidates are at it again. As politicians race to secure their place in our history books, we may roll our eyes and sigh at the slick advertising, campaign techniques and endless speeches. Every few years, we see the slew of posters and endure the character assassination commercials as we endure the election process.
Becoming a county and state delegate this year has given me a different perspective on the political arena. I have been fascinated listening to the passionate speeches of new candidates who seek to make changes and of incumbents, who scramble to keep their positions.
Presently, there is a 94 percent re-election rate in the U.S. House and an 83 percent re-election rate in the U.S. Senate. Because of name recognition, and usually the advantage of money, it can be easy to stay in office. I have to wonder though, is this really how politics is supposed to work?
Our founding fathers had some very distinct ideas about who should govern America. They described the office of a politician as one of short-term service with little pay, so that politics would not be sought after as a means of wealth and power. Indeed, in all cases of public service, the lower the profit the greater the honor.
Benjamin Franklin made it clear that a person elected into office should be a common man who stepped up to serve his fellow man and then, shortly thereafter, stepped down to let the next man perform his service. The idea of “career politician” was a foreign and nonexistent idea back in the 1700’s and considered an oxymoron. Franklin also believed public servants should not be paid a salary so that the office would attract those “… wise and the moderate … the men fittest for the trust ….”
When writing about a proposed Constitution for the State of Virginia, Jefferson suggested a single long term for senators. This would have several salutary effects: it would prevent senators from conducting their office so as to promote their own careers, and it would keep their perspective focused on the people whom they were to represent. Public office was to be a public service, not a means for self-enrichment. Jefferson once said, “(a) government by representatives elected by the people at short periods was our object.”
Permanent power can be a dangerous thing.
President George Washington declined his $25,000 yearly salary and took himself out of office after two terms in office – voluntarily. He did this on principle because he wanted to serve his fellow man without compensation and do so in total servitude.
The duty to serve never meant the longevity to serve. Politics was never meant to be a profession.
We have a senator in the state of Utah, Orrin Hatch, who has become an “institution” in Utah because of his record 36 years in office, more years spent in office than any other politician in the history of our state.
Many still believe that this senator’s power would supersede what any new, younger politician could do in office. Hatch ran against incumbent Senator Frank Moss back in 1976 as a young politician, himself. Throughout his campaign, Hatch asked this question repeatedly, referring to Moss: “What do you call a senator who has been there 18 years? You call him home.”
Now, just about 40 years later, he has been in office longer than 60 percent of the citizens of this state have been alive – and almost my entire life.
Hatch should be more concerned with the issue of maintaining our liberties than he is with his legacy.
In my opinion, Hatch’s recent speech at the Washington County Republican Nominating Convention, held at Dixie State College April 7, was more about his power in Washington than a passion for fighting for our constitutional freedom which is in jeopardy right now. He claimed he needed one last term, “this time for sure,” he said, to get things done in Washington D.C. Well, he has had 36 years to make it happen.
I tend to think how much more we could have accomplished over the last 36 years by electing newbies with the same zeal and passion that the senator himself embraced when he first began his career. Sen. Mike Lee, who is a junior senator to Hatch elected two years ago, has done a great job in office. Hatch began his career as a junior senator when he began his political ride. I am not convinced that clout is the only answer.
Now, Hatch’s campaign runs on the premise that we need his seniority and power as he will likely soon be named the Senate Finance Chairman. Yet, he fails to tell us in his campaign speeches that the chances of the Republicans taking over the Senate are slim and the position may not even be available to him. He said the same thing in 2006 while campaigning and we bought into it. The appointment to Senate Finance Committee never did happen.
Sen. Mike Crapo from Idaho would be named to the position if Hatch is not re-elected and the Republicans take the Senate. This conservative from Idaho would be an excellent choice for the position.
“Is there anything more dangerous to the cause of liberty than a politician fixated on re-election?” asked radio talk show host, Neal Boortz. He has a point.
As one moves up the political ladder – for example, from representative to governor to president – one’s job duties change from one position to the next. I can understand wanting to assume different roles and different positions of responsibility thus giving a politician a substantial amount of time in a political career. I do have a difficult time, though, with someone who spends 36 years in the SAME position. Politicians are a product of their environment and we’ve created a system that creates the path of least resistance for politicians towards becoming corrupt rather than not.
Almost four decades is a very long time spent in the “swamp” we call Washington. The longer they stay in office, politicians can be bought and sold through cozy friends called lobbyists. A local candidate recently told me that we need to keep Hatch to compete with the other politicians that bear as much seniority as he; in other words, we must keep Hatch to play the game in Washington. That is exactly what is wrong in Washington, that we let anyone stay long enough to play the game in the first place.
The entire system needs to change and ousting career politicians is our first step forward towards reforming the system. Why are term limits inclusive to just the office of president of the United States?
Like all great TV show series, politicians should know when to quit. The time comes when they may bow out gracefully, leaving with dignity as they choose to step down, rather than waiting to be ousted by their own party.
Most would argue that Hatch did a great job for Utah, and I think that he served his position well; but all good things must come to an end.
When politicians start to think they are the only answer to our problems, they are most likely not the answer at all.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.