The Spectacle Blog

Ted Kennedy and Career Politicians

By on 8.27.09 | 2:03PM

Much has been written about Edward M. Kennedy in the last 24 hours, most of it laudatory. Chappaquiddick is mentioned in passing by the MSM; the main focus, as it should be shortly after the death of any political public figure, is positive.

But more than remind me of Kennedy's stance on government-controlled health-care or big government, his passing brought to mind how many career politicians inhabit Washington right now -- and the big problems that it breeds.

Kennedy was sworn into the Senate in 1962. He served nine terms -- nearly half a century -- in that body. Robert Byrd has been in the Senate since 1959, making this year his half-century mark. The habit of pols getting and then keeping power until they expire is not peculiar to one party, either. Strom Thurmond, first elected to the Senate in 1954, was the only Senator to reach over 100 years old while still in office. That's to say nothing of the House members who have served 50 years or more.

Regardless of their party affiliation, something is amiss when a lawmaker serves half a century in the same office. Such entrenched incumbency can't help but breed corruption, in small ways if not in large. Ted Stevens is one example. The corrupt Republican served 40 years in the Senate before getting busted. We need fresh faces, often.

This standard applies to politicians who are more aligned with my own beliefs, too. Unfortunately, corruption is blind to party and ideological identity. It tends to follow concentrated power more than anything else. That's not to say that all long-serving lawmakers are self-serving, but it increases the temptation, and with it the likelihood.

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