I’d like to tell you a story. It is a story about a senator, who has been in office for three terms. This senator was elected upon the platform of honesty, and conscientious voting. He claimed himself a champion of the people, a renewer of the constitution, a man, simply put, who would bring back the honor of the office, end partisan politics, and slay the Status Quo.

In his second month at his post, this man was approached by members of his political party. Supposedly, a fellow senator from the same party had made some promises to a lobbyist in exchange for a few favors. In order for that senator to keep his promise, every senate member of his party had to vote the same way. The young senator was told his vote must be with his party on this issue, as he was a democrat first, and a senator second.

So the young senator, just this once, went against his conscience, and voted the party line. After all, they said, what good was a senator who had lost the support of his party; if such a man would never be elected to office again? Then, almost then, the young senator might have broken with his party and truly voted his conscience. But he was not brave enough, and his constituents would probably not even notice that he had voted against his conscience. How could they know? It was right to join the group, especially when the opposition, the Republicans, were so set against the measure to be voted on. Anything the Republicans were so against was probably a good thing, right?

Little did the young senator know that had he actually voted his conscience on that day, he would have been blackballed as a Democrat, and every bit of campaign support would have been withdrawn. Thus, so many young senators new to the game never reach their potential, they are slain before they lead the uprising.

Now in his third term, this once young senator had compromised his conscience and his constituents so many times that it hardly paid to count anymore. And when he was approached by a certain drug company to draft legislation controlling the use of certain “natural health” additives and supplements, he immediately knew what he would be required to do. Mustering the senior Democratic members of the senate to accompany him, he knocked on the door of the newest democratic cavalier, a man not unlike himself fourteen years ago, ready to vote his conscience for the sake of his constituents and the good of the nation.

For one brief, shining moment, the older senator saw himself in this young man’s eyes. He remembered the promises he had made to his constituents; promises long ago broken and covered up. He glimpsed in this man what he could have been had he held his ground. If only he had stood firm that one moment long ago, this trip would not have been necessary. He would have been ousted as a senator, but would have retained his honor. Nevertheless, he now reminded this new senator that without the party’s support, his new career would be short lived. Every Democrat had to support this new legislation, or the bill would fail. If the young senator felt better about it, they could add something to the legislation that would directly benefit this new senator’s constituents. After all, what is the party if we all don’t stick together, the older senator asked the younger one?

And so another man sold his soul to gain the world, or at least, to hold his seat in the next re-election.

The saddest part of Washington DC and to a large extent within our own state capitals is that oftentimes, lobbyists only have to recruit one key member of a party. It doesn’t matter if it is Republican or Democrat, both parties fall prey, using the “we have to stick together” line far more often than actually voting their consciences.

So the lobbyists are paid vast sums of money to find that one senator or congressman, and it isn’t that hard for them to do. Many of these lobbyists used to be senators or congressmen, and they have far better access to the nation’s senators and congressmen than their own constituents do. It’s called the “good ol’ boy” country club, and only certain members are allowed in. Those former senators and congressmen come calling in favors.

They go to their former comrades, friends, and party members, reminding the politicians of promises made and preferences given in the past. This isn’t friendship, this isn’t blood, this isn’t even acquaintances. This is one good ol’ boy telling another it’s time to pay the piper. And by the way, if you’re a good lad, and help me out here, when you retire from the senate, I’ll promise you a fat paycheck for the rest of your life doing what I do, lobbying politicians.

Friends don’t treat friends this way. Brothers don’t treat brothers this way. You wouldn’t strangle your neighbor by calling in a favor, and then promising him wealth later, would you?

I guess what bothers me most about politics in our nation is that they aren’t even civilized. Oh, I know, we claim to be the most civilized nation in the world, and all of our politicians wear seven - hundred dollar suits and know which fork is the salad fork. That’s not civilization though, that’s image-management.

A good friend of mine, Bruce, said the other day “As a voting population, we are lazy, uninformed, and naive. We too easily buy into the manipulative lies that spew from the politicians. We are a stupid people, and we're becoming stupider as a result of our wonderful public education system (and we all want public HEALTHCARE too?... give me a break!).

It's the information age, but we would rather watch "reality" TV instead of living in the reality of leadership-gone-wrong. We would rather complain about things than fix things. We would rather assume that everyone is doing their part rather than ask.”

We want change, but we aren’t willing to stand up. “Christians” are admonished to vote Republican regardless of how bad the candidate is, and swallow every bit of garbage the Republican party sells, because they are the Christian Right. (Or is it Left?)

How can we expect our politicians, and our politics to change if we ourselves aren’t even willing to vote our consciences? How can we expect right leadership when we ourselves vote the party line, or as my friend Bruce said, vote emotionally? Who sets the example?

I know why it isn’t really an honor to serve the people anymore. It’s because the people aren’t honorable themselves. That goes for Christians, too.

I cannot look up to a politician and expect him to hold a higher standard than I do. Maybe if I accorded myself with honor, he might, too?

No comments: