My Mom is where I learned about public service. For 17 years she was a County Commissioner in the second largest county in Michigan by population. During that time she had opportunities to run for higher office, but stayed where she was because she though it was the highest level of public office where one could see the affect of the work one was doing.
It wasn’t always an easy row to hoe. Being that it was Michigan there was always a problem with finding enough money in the budgets to fill all the priorities. There were times when she did what she thought was right, even though people complained. When she set up two health clinic where teens could get condoms without shame or hassle (in the ‘80’s) there was a lot of out cry. Still Mom knew that with the 17% teen pregnancy rate in her district something had to be done.
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
Why did she do it? Why go through all the brain damage of running for office and then taking all the heat for things that she did? Simple; someone had to do it if the county was to function. The system of government that we have requires people from the community to get in there and do their best to make things better for all the people.
There is no doubt that as you ascend the pyramid of political power keeping this foremost in your mind becomes more difficult. A County Commissioner, even in a densely populated county only has to worry about a few hundred thousand people. A State Rep has to look to millions; when you become a Senator or Representative in Congress then there is the issue what is best for the nation, all 300 million as well as what is best for your state.
This dichotomy trips up a lot of politicians. Let’s face it, none of us, even with the best will in the world, can really get our heads around the number 300 million. It is too big; nothing that we deal with in our daily lives comes in the Bumper Fun Pak of 300 million. This tends to lead to a retreat to a smaller number, say the 5 million or so people that live in your state. This is particularly true of U.S. Senators.
It is part a parcel of why we are in the fix we find ourselves in regards to comprehensive climate change legislation. The Republicans have a lock on climate change denial. They have internalized this message to the point of epistemic closure. No new information will get in to them on this. The fact that the first six months of this year have been the hottest on record and the record it is breaking is a recent one will not make a dent in the armor they have built up to protect them from new and contradictory information.
This is not the case on the Democratic side of things, but that does not mean that Coal State Democrats like Sen. Jay “Jell-O” Rockefeller are not lining up with the climate know-nothings and deniers. He is among the Democrats that supported Sen. Lisa “Do I Look Oily” Murkowski’s attempt to prevent the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide. Along with Senators Landrieu, Bayh, Pryor, Nelson and Lincoln (thanks a lot Blanche, you really are a stand up gal!) he voted with the Republicans. The argument is that it should not be a government agency that sets the rules on something like this, it should be the Congress.
Which is really a very smart bit of thinking; it really is the job of the Congress to set these very important policies. However it is Senators like Jell-O Jay and the others who are actually blocking the Senate from doing just that. He and his merry band of carbon state Senators are the ones we can’t count on to vote for closure, let alone a rational policy about cap and trade. It is for this reason that we will not get anything approaching comprehensive climate change legislation in this Congress nor probably the next one.
It is not hard to understand how these Senators got to this place, they represent states that greatly benefit from the energy industry and they don’t have a lot of other major industries going on either. These Senators want to get elected again, so they don’t want to cross the big employers and, frankly, their big money donors by limiting carbon. Yes it is easy to see how they could come to the place where they want the EPA to keeps its hands off and yet not be willing to do what it takes to keep the EPA from acting.
It is also easy to see how this is a betrayal of the whole idea of public service. This is flatly cowardice. The job of a United States Senator is not to get re-elected. It is to represent their states interest, balanced with what is best for the nation. These Senators, these Democratic Senators are failing in their jobs. The overall interest of the nation has to come before the narrow interest of their state. If they can not understand that then they are unqualified to be Senators.
Is that harsh? Probably; however, it is also true. The idea of a Federal Republic like the United States requires that there are elected officials who put the interest of the nation ahead of everything else from time to time. I am not a wide eyed idealist (well with the exception of torture) I get that this can’t be the driving interest all the time, there are plenty of times where the interest of one’s home state are paramount. Still when we are talking about potentially irreparable damage to the environment of a the only planet we have access to and the nation resides on, it is time to put the greater good ahead of the interest of your state.
One of the really frustrating things about Republicans and the “states rights” argument is that it misses the essential nature of our Union. Ben Franklin was talking about real execution when he said “We must all hang together or we shall surely hang apart”, but that makes it no less true for our current situation. No state could really hope to stand on its own as a nation. Even California with its vast resources and population would be hard pressed to function as a nation. If for no other reason than the fact that other states provide an enormous amount of the water that keeps its huge cities functioning.
The United States is what it is because of the entirety of the nation. No small part can exist by itself and be any where near as successful as the whole can. This is the cold hard reason that Senators must look beyond their states interest and do what is best for the nation as a whole from time to time.
I am going to come out and say it; Senator Rockefeller, you and your Democratic cohorts who won’t vote for cloture and will vote to strip the EPA of its carbon dioxide regulatory powers are putting the interest of your state ahead of the interest of our nation. Shame on you. It is actions like this that make good, hard working politicians at all levels of government have to take the rap for being ineffectual and corrupt. If you can not find it in yourself to lead, both your state and the nation, in the direction that you yourself say we need to go, then it is time for you to retire.
You have lost the idea of public service. You are no longer looking to the good of the people who elected you first; you are no longer the one stepping up to do the job for the right reasons. If you are more concerned with being Senator Rockefeller than what that position can do for the people, then you are part of the problem and not the solution.
All the targeted projects and pork in the world will not make up for the disastrous affects of continued climate change. You say that we must do something about climate change, yet you are unwilling to even allow a vote for a comprehensive climate change bill. Hypocrisy is an ugly thing Senator. When you find yourself trying to have it both ways, you can always be sure that you are doing something wrong.
At 73 you will not live to see the truly dire consequences of your actions. There might be mildly better economic times in West Virginia for the next few years because of you stance, but the long term affects will be devastating. Please Senator, it is time to be a true leader of the people or get out the way. No one gets to pick the challenges of their lifetimes; they only get to pick the way they respond to them. Right now, you and the other Democrats holding up these bills are failing to meet your challenges.
The floor is yours.