06/29/11 — Ego and delusion: Maybe it's time to declare an end to the era of career legislators

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Ego and delusion: Maybe it's time to declare an end to the era of career legislators

It is time to talk about term limits again.

In the olden days, those who spoke against limiting the number of terms someone could serve said it was a handicap for an area not to have a well-connected, seasoned politician in place when it came to getting funding for projects and attention from lawmakers.

And some of that is still true. The longer your legislator is in office, the more he or she knows his or her way around committees and can participate in ritual back scratching and other politicking that makes votes turn one way or the other. Just look at West Virginia's now-deceased patriarch Sen. Robert Byrd. There was a reason everything in that state was named after him. He knew how to bring pork home to his constituents.

But recently, career politicians -- some old and some young -- have been showing Americans that perhaps they need to think a little more about new ideas and term limits and less about longevity and connections.

And perhaps now, more than ever, is the time to consider making it official.

There seems to be more and more corruption at all levels of government -- from local leaders in position to turn business their way to congressmen and senators who are so sure they are bulletproof that they have no qualms about conducting themselves in a manner that is nothing short of disgusting.

It is astonishing that Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York thought he could survive tweeting pictures of himself to young girls.

And that is just the latest example of hubris, which, by the way, seems not to be limited to just one political party.

So what makes lawmakers at all levels think that the laws and the rules of the real world do not apply to them?

One has to wonder if perhaps this has less to do with politics and more to do with ego and delusions of grandeur.

Some politicians these days seem to think they ascend to their seats from on high. They do not really remember how they got there -- at least until another election rolls around anyway. They cater to the voters when they are seeking checkmarks on a ballot, but then forget to listen to the very people who elected them once they get in office.

They live in the rarefied world of Washington, D.C., where connections to the daily lives their constituents lead are few and far between.

They get to speak on a grand scale and to garner attention from media and officials alike.

So, they forget.

They forget what it is really like to struggle to pay the bills, to try to figure out how to meet an insurance deductible. They send their children to fancy schools and preach to the rest of us about supporting public education. They lament the lack of conservation, but take entourages on trips and travel in the very SUVs they are railing against.

They are used to people listening to what they have to say, but do not remember how frustrating it is to get nothing but the run-around.

They are too comfortable, too much about the business of keeping their cushy jobs with the great benefits and less about actually doing them.

Term limits would allow us to change all that.

We could demand more and expect more results.

And best of all, we could rest assured that there will be less chance for our leaders to forget what it is really like out here in the real world.

There is an old saying that the more ideas there are, the better the chance that a good one will rise to the surface. We don't need career politicians. We need people who care about their country's future.

There is no anointment at birth that makes someone inherently perfect to be a lawmaker. It is time for us to consider opening up the opportunities to more than a few.

We just might be surprised at how much better our results are.

Published in Editorials on June 29, 2011 11:12 AM