A Record That Should Never be Broken

On Monday Robert Byrd, Senator from West Virginia died.  He was the longest serving Senator in American history, having been elected to a 9th term in the Senate in 2006 and serving for 51 years.

Respected by many, criticized by perhaps just as many (He never met “pork” he didn’t like!), he holds a rather unique record – in fact two records.  His three terms and six years in the House of Representatives representing the West Virginia 6th district make his total of 56 years in Congress another record.

Both are records that won’t quickly be broken, according to most news reporters and political pundits.

Both are records that I believe SHOULD NEVER be broken.  With all due respect, 51 years in the Senate is too long.  One of the most pernicious aspects of American politics at the moment is this strange sense of entitlement our elected representatives seem to have – not toward the districts and states they represent – but toward themselves.  The win-at-all-costs mindset that pushes a candidate to practically do anything, make any promise, tell any lie to win the next election, then conveniently forget those promises made is perhaps one of, if not the most telling, contributing factors to an approval rating that should embarrass every person who walks the halls of our Capitol.  (Last week, 12 % of Americans thought Congress was doing a good job.)

Am I the only person troubled by this?  An evaluation of such poor performance that would see any other worker – in any other profession – fired for cause is business as usual for those who have perhaps fed at the legislative trough just a bit too long?  I’m not at all sure this was what our founders had in mind when they crafted this “representative” democracy.

So… as I say, with all due respect, let’s at least deal with one of the “elephants” in the room. (No political pun intended.)  As an independent voter with left-leaning tendencies, I really do vote my conscience in any election.  In our past gubernatorial election, I cast my vote for the libertarian candidate even though I knew he had little chance of winning.  But listening to him, reading his positions, and believing what he said was important enough to support him.  (And sure, I’ve listened to all these folks rant and rave how my support cost this guy the election.)

Moving forward:  I hereby pledge that I’m willing to cast my vote to either Elaine Marshall or Richard Burr, based on nothing more than ONE SPECIFIC ISSUE.  That’s it – I’ll swallow all the others, be it abortion rights, gun control, illegal immigration, tax cuts… they don’t matter.  Mr. Burr, Ms. Marshall:  Promise me that you will support term limits for ALL elected offices and I’m in.  Promise me that you’ll call it quits at two terms and if nominated will decline to serve another, you’ve got me.  Mr. Burr, that means this coming one is it:  Prove to me you’re done after this next term and I’ll find an absentee ballot next week.  Ms. Marshall, show me you mean it and I’ll order my bumper stickers today.  Make your plans now to join the lobby firm you’ve got picked out, get elected, serve, and move on to make a million bucks lobbying your successors.  That’ll do… for a start.

We’ve got serious problems.  Everyone seems to know that.  What I don’t understand is why so many politicians keep telling us how “experienced” they are at being a politician… like that somehow is going to help or reassure us in any way.   Some records should not be broken.  Senator Byrd’s is one of those.