There was a great moment in the recent senatorial debate in Massachusetts (for the senate seat vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy) this week. Scott Brown, who is the Republican candidate for that seat, was asked, “…under those circumstances, are you willing to say, ‘I’m gonna be the person, I’m gonna sit in Teddy Kennedy’s seat, and I’m gonna be the person that’s gonna block [health care] for another 15 years?'” Scott Brown responded, “With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat…”
There is something about this that is very telling. I’m not so sure that career politics was ever in the mind’s eye of our founding fathers. Ted Kennedy held Massachusetts’s US Senate seat for some 47 years. He isn’t alone in a long list of career US politicians. The party system in our two houses bases its leadership structure on experience and longevity. It’s bringing normal American capitalistic ideas to the US government. Except our founding fathers expected Americans to add to their American capitalistic and business prowess from time to time and volunteer above and beyond to serve in the government – only to step down again and take up the family business. We were to share the burden of the country and it was not to take us over, but to serve us.
I wonder how many other seats in our government are named like an endowed chair at a university. If asked about George Washington’s stepping down from the presidency after two terms, what kind of interesting comments would many of these career politicians make? Not one of the presidents pushed the envelope on the unwritten term limit of the president until FDR. Now that both the president and the congress have pushed the limits of career politics, how long will we allow them to continue?
Maybe another subject for another day… Did Scott Brown get it right? According to the US Constitution, he’s actually running for one of the State of Massachusetts’s seats. So isn’t it really the state’s seat? But… that’s a topic of another sort.