Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Senator Specter and the Clinging to Power...

Much have noted that Senator Specter opportunistically switched parties because he was 20 points behind in the Republican primary and seemed assured of a loss. By switching to the Democrats, he assures himself of an easier time retaining power as a Senator, backed by an incumbent President and a majority in Congress who can provide him with generous cash for his re-election.

Senator Specter is 79 years old. He's had cancer. He's been in the Senate since 1980, for about 29 years. He's running for re-election for another 6 years. If he wins in 2010, he'll be 86 years old when his term ends.

A sure sign of civilizational decline is when leaders cling to power. You see it in dictators like Zimbabwe's Mugabae, in North Korea, etc. It was troubling enough for Americans to see FDR cling to power that the 22nd amendment was enacted, limiting the the President to two terms of office.

Has anyone noticed that the halls of Congress are full of people clinging to power? I think New Jersey's Senator Lautenberg is like 247 years old. He's been in office, give or take a corrupt placeholder, since 1982. Ted Kennedy is clinging to his office - he's been there since 1964 - for over 45 years. 45 years? Robert Byrd - been there since 1959, for over 50 years! What the hell!? Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy are basically invalids who can't even dress themselves let alone debate in the Senate. They should do the honorable thing and quit.

Dying in office of old age is a bad thing. Leaders who do that show more about the corruption of their office than the generosity of their public spirit. A better person would retire before his wits elude him, trusting that the time they spent in office was well used. Although it's good to have a long-serving faithful public servant, too often corruption becomes systemic such that many refuse to leave. The only time politicians are apt to quit is when their own power is diminished by a change in majorities (many Democrats quit after 1994, many Republicans quit in 2006). This is why term limits are necessary (but will never happen because Congress will never pass it).

Update: Hope the reference isn't too geeky, but it reminds me of this bit of JRR Tolkien's legendarium:
Tar-Atanamir the Great
He was born in the year 1800, and ruled for 192 years, until 2221, which was the year of his death. Much is said of this King in the Annals, such as now survive the Downfall. For he was like his father proud and greedy of wealth, and the Númenóreans in his service exacted heavy tribute from the men of the coasts of Middle-earth. In his time the Shadow fell upon Númenor; and the King, and those that followed his lore, spoke openly against the ban of Valar, and their hearts were turned against the Valar and the Eldar; but wisdom they still kept, and they feared the Lords of the West, and did not defy them. Atanamir is called also the Unwilling, for he was the first of the Kings to refuse to lay down his life, or to renounce the sceptre; and he lived until death took him perforce in dotage.
The Long Defeat of America continues.

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