OPINION – With the second inauguration of President Obama now a part of history, it’s just about time for campaign 2014 to begin.
The midterm elections, when all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs and 33 of the 100 Senate seats are at risk, will be heavily influenced over the course of the first six months of the President’s second term.
The issues are deep and complex.
There is the debt ceiling, which has been unresolved for some time.
There is the ongoing health care debate as Republicans vow to overturn what has become tagged as Obamacare.
There is the combativeness of stricter gun control laws, which could be as widespread as a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines to as narrow as simply instituting tighter background checks and legislation that requires anybody who buys a weapon of any kind at any place to undergo a check.
In his inaugural speech, the president hit on key elements of his second term, calling for unity and strength, but also reminding us that democracy does not – and should not – be a matter of agreement on all measures and issues.
It was a reconciliatory gesture to the GOP and a reminder to the political center that despite the false comments and accusations that he governs from the left, he represents all of the citizenry.
So, what can we expect?
Unfortunately, because members of the House are only seated for two-year terms, there is little chance to do any real work before the pressures of the next campaign begin to exert themselves.
The election is constantly at the forefront, which tends to, at least in recent years, interfere with any truly courageous actions in the House because the politicians have become so fearful of the electorate – and with good reason – that they fail to negotiate or deliberate in good faith with the best interests of the nation at heart. Instead, they legislate to keep favor with voters rather than solve any grievous issues.
Their counterparts in the Senate, however, have six years to run the nation’s business, which means the mirror isn’t held up to them as often.
That’s why we should extend the term of House members to four years and reduce the Senate term from six years to four. Additionally, term limits should also be instituted. There is no advantage to the nation to have professional politicians who remain on the job long enough to collect a gold watch. Those who cling to their offices tend to do so only because they learn how to work the system for special favor and benefit for their state, thus the odd and idiosyncratic politicking that takes place as one senator scratches the back of another for legislation that will help fill rural potholes in one state while promising urban renewal dollars in another.
It’s from such odd alliances that the saying “politics makes for strange bedfellows” derives.
Give each member of the House and Senate the maximum of two four-year terms, shake their hand and thank them for their service, then send them on their way. It would reinvigorate our system, reduce the ridiculous pensions we give these people, who are, theoretically, public servants performing public service, and break down the gridlock and power bases that have grounded our system. It would eliminate that need to pander for votes and allow our elected officials to concentrate on doing the right thing.
I hear it argued that it takes at least one term for a member of the House or Senate to get their bearings and learn the system. Perhaps they learn the system too well, especially when they figure out how to fleece lobbyists to line their pockets.
I hear it argued that it is important to have a senior member in the Congress because they get the best committee assignments and can do the most for their home state. But, aren’t we supposed to embrace what is best for the entire nation? One of the largest hindrances to a united nation is all of this unproductive desire for unlimited states rights, wants, needs, and desires. We have enough to separate us as it is. Aren’t we all in this together?
Besides, those who seek the “important” assignments are more apt to sell out to move up the ranks.
With a maximum of eight years on the table, politicians would be more apt to serve with dignity rather than an eye toward self-preservation. There are plenty of opportunities to serve the nation outside of government, plenty of good opportunities. They are, undoubtedly, of a much lower profile and probably less profitable, but they are opportunities just the same that would allow them to make a difference and contribute to society rather than leaching the public.
Most importantly, it would offer the opportunity for newer, fresher ideas every turnaround of the House and Senate.
Instead of the same, tired old men coming up with the same tired old ideas, we could look to fresher perspectives and new ways to solve old problems, which might be the greatest advantage because, as Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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