A swamp creature speaks out

This is both a plea and a warning to angry reform-minded voters from someone working in Washington, D.C.  Many of you are frustrated and angered at President Trump and the omnibus bill, believing that momentum for improving the system has stalled, and some have declared they will vote for the Democratic Party as a punishment against Trump.  That is your choice, but I ask you to consider some observations from someone who is, however lowly, part of the current federal system.  If you "punish" Trump in the midterms by voting for the very party that wrote the omnibus bill, you will accomplish nothing.

Although disappointed,  I am not completely shocked about Trump and the omnibus bill.  The problem is that the legislative process is designed from the outset to be slow, compromising, and inflexible, with the intent of preventing corruption and abuse of power from gaining a  foothold in the government.  Unfortunately, once that corruption takes hold, the very process designed to impede such corruption will now protect it due to its lumbering statutory procedures.

The presidency is only one branch and cannot legally do most of the necessary structural reforms without statutory changes.  Whether the border wall is part of that statutory requirement is a separate debate.  Congress must want to reform as well, but it doesn't want to reform.  Right now, it is the main nest of vipers poisoning the blood of the federal system; this branch has no incentive to change.  Embedded politicians with large networks of funding, lobbying, and activism that fuel these political machines will not willingly cede power.  Old ways of punishing legislatures will not work.  Sitting out the election or voting for the opposition simply as a protest vote is part of the current system; it only plays into lobbyist and establishment political hands. 

Legislative politicians rely on a big weakness of the voting public that has kept the status quo going for decades.  Most of the voters want to fix the system, but not if it directly affects themselves.  Instead of following the idiom of "Throw the bums out!," many voters embrace "Throw all the bums out except my bum."  Too many politicians survive with buying their constituents federal goodies and then blame all the national problems on their political peers.  All politicians play the same game, and few are held accountable in the next election.  That is why protest votes usually work when the electorate wants to get rid of a specific politician, not a corrupted branch of government exploited by all political parties.  If there is no real effort to change the congressional behavior as a body, no real reforms can happen.

Punish Trump in 2020 if you want, but you cannot let the disappointment of Trump's actions allow the politicians in Congress avoid accountability!  Politicians in general crave power even at the cost of the greater good, but these politicians will also rationalize that their actions are good.  If a traditional protest vote happens, and the Congress switches parties, the political class will rationalize it, saying Trump's efforts to reform are unpopular and the statist policies are legitimate to pursue.  The current system of lobbyists and special interests are indifferent to the political parties; they have shills in all of them, and the politicians who have been there the longest typically are the ones most corrupted.  So switching one set of puppets with another is hardly productive.

Frankly, yes, getting rid of RINOs, cowards, and charlatans will help, but it is a minor fix, because it relies on the idea that the new politicians will not become corrupted.  Instead, voters must be prepared to bite the bullet and endure some pain by punishing the cowardly legislatures who also provide the constituents' pork barrels.

Some pundits suggest a states convention to put term limits into the Constitution, like the one linked here.  Perhaps later even repealing  the 17th Amendment to bring greater accountability to senators could be another effort.  Whether these efforts succeed or not, "draining the swamp" will happen only when Congress is co-opted away from the current leadership.  Vote your conscience, but think about the consequences of your actions in cold, hard logical terms.

Aaron Hirschi served in the U.S. Army and formerly worked in the Pentagon.  He now works in a nondescript federal building somewhere in Washington, D.C.

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