UPDATE: BASED ON MISLEADING REPORTING ELSEWHERE THAT I DIDN’T DOUBLE-CHECK, I ERRED: PUTNAM is SERVING OUT HIS TERM! (THE BASIC POINT I MAKE PHILOSOPHICALLY DOESN’T CHANGE, THOUGH.)
So now we see Judd Gregg of New Hampshire apparently leaving an almost entirely safe Senate seat to become Commerce Secretary, at a time when his party is just one vote from losing its ability to filibuster — and now we also see Rep. Adam Putnam planning to leave Congress to run for Ag Secretary of Florida. Both are examples of a growing epidemic of serious dereliction of duty. I have complained about this in the past, but now the complaint is becoming a fury. Here’s the deal: When you put yourself up for election before the voters, you are promising them that you will take the job to which they elect you for the duration of the term for which you are elected. You therefore have a duty to serve out that term — yes, dammit, a DUTY — unless you suffer some sort of tragedy or big family problem, or you are ill, or you are promoted to a clearly higher office that your constituents would approve. Otherwise, leaving an office in the middle of a term is a dereliction of duty.
Leaving deprives your constituents of the representation they voted for. It necessitates a special election, which costs taxpayers’ money. And it inconveniences just about everybody. Also, in the case of Gregg, it hurts the party that gave him its backing, at a time when it can least afford to be hurt. In the case of Putnam, it makes no sense: He could run for Ag Sec while he serves in Congress; voters know that when they elect politicians, those politicians will spend time politiciking. THe implicit promise is that you will do the actual public-office job thoroughly and well even if you are spending time trying to get elected to another office. If you can’t do that, then don’t run for your current office in the first place.
Gregg and Putnam are being self-centered and selfish. They merit loud raspberries. Very loud. Plus ostracism. And maybe worse.