In every contest there are winners and losers. Election to public office is no different. There was a time in recent years when political office holders had only to avoid scandal to remain in office until they were too old to be pushed around in a wheel chair and read from a script prepared by staff members. Such is the case of West Virginia’s Robert Byrd currently, and there have been others. 

But times, they are ‘a-changin,’ and folks back home are losing confidence in some of their representatives who have been left to their own devices too long. A small contingent of citizens have come to the realization that we are losing our freedom, not only because our representatives have not kept their word or been loyal to their oath of office, but because we, their constituents, have been negligent in letting them know what we expect and removing them from office when they fail to be true to their oath of office and keep their commitments to the people they represent.

It is human nature to become fond of money, power over the lives of others, and creature comforts. Some of us can handle success and serve in powerful positions without abusing our authority. Others cannot resist abusing the authority and power provided to them in order for them to perform their assigned duties.

We have poor government because we have been poor citizens in terms of communicating with our elected officials. If we do not advise them, they are getting contrary advice from the professional lobby that represents every special interest that exists.

If we are to improve the quality of our government and remain free, we must remain vigilant and observe our elected officials closely. We all know of examples where we have elected great people to represent us in Washington, Columbia, Greenville County Square and on the Greenville County School Board. We then forget about them and allow them to be influenced by individuals and organizations that do not have our best interests at heart. Through inaction on our part, we have contributed to the failure of our elected representatives and ultimately our entire government.

There are reasons why Presidents of the United States are allowed to serve only two terms of four years each and are required to get a vote of confidence in order to remain in office for a second term. Most states have a similar term limit for Governors. Members of Congress and State Legislatures who make the laws have avoided limiting their own terms and remain in office beyond their ability to serve their constituents and their country honorably.

Changing jobs and career fields is painful. It is sometimes traumatic. Ideally, we would like to find a job we really like and stay with it for the remainder of our working days, but that is not the way the system works currently – that is with the exception of career politicians and bureaucrats.

Elected lawmakers, senior bureaucrats, judges and some members of the sports and entertainment industry become accustomed to being someone special with underlings serving their every need and want. Leaving one of those positions and returning to the real world can be traumatic.

The United States Military has a system that to a great extent avoids the practice of complacency and “kingdom building.” Military personnel with authority to make things happen are rarely allowed to remain in one assignment more than two or three years at the most. An officer or senior non-commissioned officer can count on being transferred to a different location with a different array of superiors and subordinates and assigned different duties to perform every one to three years. There is no opportunity to become comfortable or complacent. You are only passing through with a job to do and no time to plant roots. We would have better government if we imposed similar rules on elected officials. But they will never do it on their own initiative. The task is ours alone to accomplish.

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Mike Scruggs