Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Assumption of Power

In the final days leading up to the November election, there appears to be a lot of assuming going on. The Republican Party is assuming that they will take over the majority in one, if not both Houses of Congress, the Democratic Party assumes that in spite of the low opinion that voters appear to have of the way they have been running things (especially in the last two years when they had the majority in both Houses of Congress and the resident in the White House) that they will retain that majority, and every political pundit in the US assumes that they know what's going on in the heads of the voters. 

Though we all know the saying about what happens when you assume, this prevents no one from doing so. The most heinous assumptions however, seem to be those made by the candidates themselves. Many running for political office this year assume that they are the best choice because of their paternity. Apparently the assumption here is that there is some genetic component to holding office, and that being born into what must be considered little more than a ruling elite is qualification enough for it. 

One can assume little else from behavior that takes great pains to insure that these names are prominently and conspicuously displayed. Married daughters even often hyphenate their names in order to insure paternal recognition or use 'professional' political names which drop that of their spouse entirely. Curiously, the reverse is equally true, and some seem to ignore their own paternity to claim that of their male spouse, apparently believing that political acumen is something that can be passed on during prolonged conjugal exposure. 

I will not give credence to such assumptive efforts by listing names that we are all too familiar to those in NW Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas. I will point out however that my own family in fact holds a distant relationship to the Adams family (John and John Quincy, not the rather creepy family made famous in the television show); but though one was a Founding Father and both were former presidents, I can certainly make no claim to political primogeniture as a consequence of this remote relationship. 

Incumbents are another of these assumptive class of politicians. In this case, it appears that possession may indeed be nine-tenths of the law, and that there is an unwritten right of assumption stating that holding an elective office constitutes the only necessary qualification for retaining it. This may be understandable in light of the confusion these days over what constitutes 'rights' in this country; especially the assumption that rights have to do with outcomes rather than opportunities. 

It is curious however, that while such experience appears to often be the exclusive claim to titular possession, any questioning of what has been done for (or to) constituents during this ownership is assumed to be off limits or in poor taste. It often seem in fact, as though there is an assumption that holding political office is much like a skilled trade. One need only serve the appropriate apprenticeship period and qualify for journeyman status. What follows is an assumption that this person will then hold office until a retirement at a time and age of their choosing. 

For myself, I am amazed and amused by such a concept and cannot help but wonder how many of these journeymen would fare if there were an 'Angie's List' compiled on public servants. This is not to say that accidents of birth or marriage should preclude one from seeking and holding public office, only to say that these circumstances do not in and of themselves constitute qualification. 

Neither is holding an elective office long enough to achieve tenure as a professor in most universities justification for the assumption of such tenure in elected office. In fact, those who designed the system of government we live under believed just the opposite; and felt that political office was a public trust that must be earned from the voters each time that an election is held. 

And so therefore in little more than three weeks, the final judgment on all such assumptions will take place at the ballot box. No doubt far too few of us will once again exercise their franchise and their responsibility to vote, but those chosen will still assume the power of their respective elected office nonetheless. Let us hope that they show wisdom, good sense, and respect for this responsibility; and do not make the assumption that selection means that they know what's best for us.

1 comment:

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