Reporter's Note: I send a letter to President Obama every day, offering ideas about the country. I realize that sounds a little presumptuous, but he asked for such advice when he took office and as far as I know, he has never rescinded the request. So...
Dear Mr. President,
I have been thinking about a particular subject a good bit lately, and this morning it became rather clear in my mind, so this weekend I’d like to discuss it a bit. The question on the table: Why don’t we trust our elected leaders?
It’s a broad question to be sure, and no doubt there are scads of different reasons. I am sure my analysis will not be exhaustive, although it may well be exhausting. Ha! Still, I think a good starting point is in the simple assertion: we don’t trust them because they are untrustworthy.
Consider the evidence. First, many elected officials have followed the tried and true path of winning a lower level office, then using it as a springboard to higher places. It has become a standard operating procedure for, oh say, Busy Bob to run for City Council, then while holding that job to campaign for State Representative, then while holding that job to run for the U.S. Congress.
The practice is so common we don’t even question it anymore. But it is fundamentally deceitful. Busy Bob told us he wanted to serve our city; but before he even completed that job, he was abandoning us. He said he wanted to help out our state, but before that job was done, he was once again off on a new quest. You get the picture. Some might call him a talented politician. Some might call him ambitious. But he could also simply be called a liar, a person who publically promises his service in exchange for your vote, then reneges on his commitment as soon as the votes are cast.
I think it would be fascinating if some public interest group started doing something about this. Imagine what would happen if they asked politicians to sign a written pledge not to seek a different office until they’d completed their duties in the current one. It would not be unreasonable. All they would be saying is, “Look, if you want to represent us, you need to make it clear that you intend to serve the entire term. We are interested in a full time leader. Not someone who serves a couple of years, and then goes on a campaigning spree while we’re still paying his salary.”
After all, can you think of any other profession in which workers are allowed to openly campaign for their new position with a different company without repercussion? Frankly, I think if politicians want to regain our trust, both parties should urge their elected members to complete each elected term in each office before seeking anything new. And if some Senator or Congressman or Governor feels like he or she just can’t wait, at least that person might have the courtesy to resign before starting the next race, so his or her constituents could quickly get another full time public servant into the job that is being abandoned.
So this is one reason why I say many of our elected officials are viewed as untrustworthy. Even in private industry, many of us have contempt for people who simply use one job as a vaulting horse to reach the next. Especially if, in doing so, they do not fulfill their initial obligation.
More tomorrow. Hope all is well.
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