Analysis: Should we have career politicians?

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not those of St. George News.

OPINION –   The candidates are at it again. As politicians race to secure their place in our history books, we may roll our eyes and sigh at the slick advertising, campaign techniques and endless speeches. Every few years, we see the slew of posters and endure the character assassination commercials as we endure the election process.

Becoming a county and state delegate this year has given me a different perspective on the political arena. I have been fascinated listening to the passionate speeches of new candidates who seek to make changes and of incumbents, who scramble to keep their positions.

Presently, there is a 94 percent re-election rate in the U.S. House and an 83 percent re-election rate in the U.S. Senate. Because of name recognition, and usually the advantage of money, it can be easy to stay in office. I have to wonder though, is this really how politics is supposed to work?

Our founding fathers had some very distinct ideas about who should govern America. They described the office of a politician as one of short-term service with little pay, so that politics would not be sought after as a means of wealth and power. Indeed, in all cases of public service, the lower the profit the greater the honor.

Benjamin Franklin made it clear that a person elected into office should be a common man who stepped up to serve his fellow man and then, shortly thereafter, stepped down to let the next man perform his service. The idea of “career politician” was a foreign and nonexistent idea back in the 1700’s and considered an oxymoron. Franklin also believed public servants should not be paid a salary so that the office would attract those “… wise and the moderate … the men fittest for the trust ….”

When writing about a proposed Constitution for the State of Virginia, Jefferson suggested a single long term for senators. This would have several salutary effects: it would prevent senators from conducting their office so as to promote their own careers, and it would keep their perspective focused on the people whom they were to represent. Public office was to be a public service, not a means for self-enrichment. Jefferson once said, “(a) government by representatives elected by the people at short periods was our object.”

Permanent power can be a dangerous thing.

President George Washington declined his $25,000 yearly salary and took himself out of office after two terms in office –  voluntarily. He did this on principle because he wanted to serve his fellow man without compensation and do so in total servitude.

The duty to serve never meant the longevity to serve. Politics was never meant to be a profession.

We have a senator in the state of Utah, Orrin Hatch, who has become an “institution” in Utah because of his record 36 years in office, more years spent in office than any other politician in the history of our state.

Many still believe that this senator’s power would supersede what any new, younger politician could do in office. Hatch ran against incumbent Senator Frank Moss back in 1976 as a young politician, himself. Throughout his campaign, Hatch asked this question repeatedly, referring to Moss: “What do you call a senator who has been there 18 years? You call him home.”

Now, just about 40 years later, he has been in office longer than 60 percent of the citizens of this state have been alive – and almost my entire life.

Hatch should be more concerned with the issue of maintaining our liberties than he is with his legacy.

In my opinion, Hatch’s recent speech at the Washington County Republican Nominating Convention, held at Dixie State College April 7, was more about his power in Washington than a passion for fighting for our constitutional freedom which is in jeopardy right now. He claimed he needed one last term, “this time for sure,” he said, to get things done in Washington D.C. Well, he has had 36 years to make it happen.

I tend to think how much more we could have accomplished over the last 36 years by electing newbies with the same zeal and passion that the senator himself embraced when he first began his career. Sen. Mike Lee, who is a junior senator to Hatch elected two years ago, has done a great job in office. Hatch began his career as a junior senator when he began his political ride. I am not convinced that clout is the only answer.

Now, Hatch’s campaign runs on the premise that we need his seniority and power as he will likely soon be named the Senate Finance Chairman. Yet, he fails to tell us in his campaign speeches that the chances of the Republicans taking over the Senate are slim and the position may not even  be available to him. He said the same thing in 2006 while campaigning and we bought into it. The appointment to Senate Finance Committee never did happen.

Sen. Mike Crapo from Idaho would be named to the position if Hatch is not re-elected and the Republicans take the Senate. This conservative from Idaho would be an excellent choice for the position.

“Is there anything more dangerous to the cause of liberty than a politician fixated on re-election?” asked radio talk show host, Neal Boortz. He has a point.

As one moves up the political ladder – for example, from representative to governor to president –  one’s job duties change from one position to the next. I can understand wanting to assume different roles and different positions of responsibility thus giving a politician a substantial amount of time in a political career. I do have a difficult time, though, with someone who spends 36 years in the SAME position. Politicians are a product of their environment and we’ve created a system that creates the path of least resistance for politicians towards becoming corrupt rather than not.

Almost four decades is a very long time spent in the “swamp” we call Washington. The longer they stay in office, politicians can be bought and sold through cozy friends called lobbyists. A local candidate recently told me that we need to keep Hatch to compete with the other politicians that bear as much seniority as he; in other words, we must keep Hatch to play the game in Washington. That is exactly what is wrong in Washington, that we let anyone stay long enough to play the game in the first place.

The entire system needs to change and ousting career politicians is our first step forward towards reforming the system. Why are term limits inclusive to just the office of president of the United States?

Like all great TV show series, politicians should know when to quit. The time comes when they may bow out gracefully, leaving with dignity as they choose to step down, rather than waiting to be ousted by their own party.

Most would argue that Hatch did a great job for Utah, and I think that he served his position well; but all good things must come to an end.

When politicians start to think they are the only answer to our problems, they are most likely not the answer at all.


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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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  • Ryan April 11, 2012 at 12:50 am

    First off, loved this video. lol. Funny AND true.

    So if it’s impossible to get an incumbent out, why would I vote for Dan Liljenquist when he voted to accept 800 MILLION dollars of TARP Bailout money (it was optional, by the way. Other states did, in fact, reject the “stimulus” money. AKA, my taxes). So, why would I want another infinite term of Dan increasing the budget without any way to pay for it? No thanks. I’ll stick with someone who didn’t burn through Utah’s ENTIRE rainy day fund, accept Obama TARP money every chance they got, and who actually shows up for the votes I elect them to show up for instead of going on a cruise with his wife. Maybe a vote for Chris Herrod isn’t a bad idea…wait, nope. He voted for all that too.

  • Oldtimer April 11, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Term limits for the Senate and Congress is way over due. 10-12 years of service in either of these two positions is plenty. After 10 years of working hard for the reason you wanted to be there, the motivation to stay there comes from other driving forces. Those would be the sense of power, greed, and other undesirable urges to stay that probably don’t represent the people who voted you in.

    Public office should in no way be a career choice. It’s not good for our system as you can already tell from what career politicians have done to our country.

  • Helen April 11, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Term Limits are a limit on the people and their free choice. It all boils down to the morality of the people and their understanding of the Rule of Our Republic..

    The answer is simple. Uphold the Constitution and it makes little difference who are representing the people. We would all be safe as far as justice and freedom are concerned. We would be living under a limited government under the laws of our land.

  • Firefly April 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Spot on Kate. I agree that there needs to be term limits in both Houses, as there is for President. Hatch has done more to hurt this country and state than helped. With his support of the NDAA and voing for all the bailouts and stimulis’, which have proven to be costly to say the least. He has assisted in driving this country into the debt we have incurred to date. 36 years is way past enough time to have affected any meaningful change if he truelly wanted to. Instead, he chose to turn his position into a career of power and financial gain. As you state, he should resign with some dignity, versus getting thrown out by his own party. Enough of Hatch….Retire Hatch 2012.

  • ron April 12, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I am guessing that 80-90% of American voters would vote for term limits. But it never gets any serious consideration from our elected representatives. Instead, they keep us divided over issues like gay rights, abortion, taxes, etc. Why can’t we get action on something most of us feel strongly about? Personally, I’d prefer a Democrat to Hatch, BUT I’d prefer new blood from either party. Politics should NOT be a lifetime career!

  • Curtis April 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Hatch wore out his welcome with me a long time ago.
    However — term limits means a voter may not be able to vote for whom he or she wants in office

  • Drew Armstrong April 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    George Washington was asked once about term limits as they considered placing them in our constitution. He said “We have term limits, 4 years for the house and 6 years for the senate.” Meaning that the constituency of the candidates can and do have the ability to vote for new representation and thereby term limit their representatives.

    Orrin Hatch is not yet even in the top 50 longest serving Senators or Congressmen. Additionally, if we voted in Herrod or Dan we would have the most junior senatorial representation out of all 50 states! This being said… We do not have to like the fact that seniority makes a difference but it does… Mike Crapo himself knows this and even knowing that he would get to be the Finance Committee Chair he has endorsed Hatch because he knows that 2 republican western senior Senators on that committee are more important to the direction of our country than his being the Chair.

    Again, we don’t have to like the system… Heaven knows there are plenty of places it might be able to be improved. A left leaning supreme court justice visiting Egypt even called our constitution outdated… We can change it if we don’t like it though it is really hard to do so for a reason. However, it is disingenuous to pretend that seniority doesn’t and will not make a difference.

    Mike Lee has done what we have expected him to do as a new guy. He is smart… He can pontificate and obstruct with the best of them. But… If Utah needed some important piece of legislation passed for the good of our state… He would have no clue where to go to get the votes. Maybe after 4 more years at Hatch’s elbow he will be ready to lead. If not… We can vote for Herrod at that point.

    A few reasons as a State Delegate I am voting for Hatch… 1. He has come closer and tried more times than any person who ever lived to pass the balanced budget amendment. He passed it in the Senate and it failed by ONE vote in the house before… However Clinton would have likely vetoed it. This time the chances that Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House are good. And the will of the people would support this ammendment now in a way they may never would have in the past. Romney endorses him… It can be done this time. Imagine where we would be as a country today had it been passed in 1987 or 1997

    2. That chairmanship is important. 60% of the budget flows through that committee. 100% of legislative reform will as well.

    3. Romney and Crapo want him there… Our state needs him there particularly when we are going to be taking on the federal government over this State land issue. We need his influence. He has it… 37 years earned him that influence. He is willing to fall on his sword this time for our state and this legislation… Perhaps we could even talk him into some term limiting legislation that placed all states on an even playing field?

    And my 4th reason, Gratitude… Hatch is not running again out of pride and hubris… He has more than enough money to live on. Power is old hat to him now. He would honestly rather be done but he is willing to serve our State and Country one more time and I am greatful that he is.

    I heard this today… “What do you call a 7 term Senator from Utah?” You call him Chairman…

    P.S. This was composed on my iPad… forgive the typos…

  • Lawrence April 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Hello Ms. Dalley,

    I caught a portion of your 1450 morning show the other day, when you and
    Bryan were discussing Sen. Hatch’s bid for another term in office. I have
    to agree that these politicians get themselves in a “locked loop” of first, getting
    elected and then being re-elected and staying in office. They can not truthfully
    deny that it’s a “power trip”. Unfortunately this leaves “We The People” out of
    “the loop” and begging to have our needs represented.

    In FEDERALIST 57, the fifth restraint, Madison wrote in pretty clear language
    that those in the House Of Representatives should never favor themselves, nor
    their “friends”, with any “perk” that would not be allowed to the common man.
    This being loosely translated in my language of course.

    We’ve seen way too many violations to that concept and I believe the “lifetime
    politician” has played a huge role in bringing this about.

    Good article you wrote in the St. Geo. News on the subject of term limits v.s.
    the “career politician”. Keep up the good work.

    BTW; you and Bryan were also discussing psychiatry and Bryan was commenting
    about how it is used as a political tool, to which you disagree for the most part.

    I would like to have you examine the attachment I’m sending, it’s a matter of
    record in the Congressional Library; “The 1963 Communist Goals for America”.
    Around # 38, you’ll find a goal that talks about using psychiatry as a “tool”. I
    wonder if you’ll disagree to the same degree after reading it. Discuss it with
    Bryan again.

    There are many other very interesting “goals” or “agenda(s)” they set out to
    accomplish and, when we look at our society today, I believe they have done
    fairly well in that regard. IMHO, of course.

    Respectively yours,

    Lawrence (70 Y.O.A. & still tickin’)

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