Congress’ Distinguished Gentlemen (well, maybe not)

From coffee shops to kitchen tables, Washington D.C. is unanimously seen as the epicenter for corruption and ineffectiveness. A place that, if stupidity was a religion, would be considered Mecca. Yet, for as much as we all gripe about Washington and bestow our legislative branch with habitually low approval ratings, incumbents continue to get reelected to the point where they enjoy some of the cushiest non-unionized job security in the country.

Incumbents created the mess they now claim they will solve

By Shamus McConomy

From coffee shops to kitchen tables, Washington D.C. is unanimously seen as the epicenter for corruption and ineffectiveness.  A place that, if stupidity was a religion,  would be considered Mecca.  Yet, for as much as we all gripe about Washington and bestow our legislative branch with habitually low approval ratings, incumbents continue to get reelected to the point where they enjoy some of the cushiest non-unionized job security in the country. 

I often wonder why we continue to send these yahoos to Washington and expect anything else but the same results.  It wouldn’t be hyperbole to suggest that CSPAN could run floor footage from 1979 and the only thing that would tip off its five viewers, that they were not watching current footage, would be the clothes.  The issues are the same and so are the people.  For example, Senator Robert Byrd has been around so long that he was elected when being a member of the KKK was a political asset.  I think the guy voted against the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation (talk about the politics of “no”). 

But thanks to Eddie Murphy I have realized why it is virtually impossible to unseat an incumbent.  In the movie The Distinguished Gentleman, Eddie Murphy plays a con artist who realized the best con on the plant was to get elected to Congress.  Capitalizing on the fact that he shared the name of a recently deceased incumbent Congressman, he entered the election with the sole platform to “vote the name you know.”  This example of art imitating life exposes the fact that political machines and legislative districts are rigged to maintain the status quo.  Districts are gerrymandered so that they are uniformly partisan.  Political parties typically back the incumbent with party funds, while primary challengers are forced to unseat “the name you know” on a shoestring budget.  Even when there is no incumbent, the machine still manages to hand pick a successor thereby effectively treating our political system like a Pez dispenser, as everyone moves up a notch to fill the empty seat. 

What we end up with is a government stuck in neutral filled with lifers who hang on well beyond the age average when typical Americans retires.  But why retire when being a congressman or senator is tantamount to semi-retirement sans the necessity of needing a 401k and with better healthcare.  Leaving We The People with a legislative branch stocked with more geriatrics per capita than a Sizzler Steakhouse at 4:00 p.m.  Many of these politicians hang on to their seats while maintaining the voluntary muscle capability of a muppet.  These octogenarians and nonagenarians get wheeled out to floor votes al la Weekend At Bernie’s, with no other agenda than to stay in power and get crap named after themselves. 

Anti-incumbency is the newest political cause du jour.  The Tea Party has become the outlet for the formerly frustrated yet silent Americans who previously were just trying to go about their day.  It is time to see this movement through to its logical conclusion and vote incumbents out.  It is time to hit the reset button on Washington (and our state capitols) and put fresh people and new ideas to work.  When you go to the ballot box this year don’t be seduced by “the name you know”.  It’s time to realize he (or she) is a deadbeat and is never going to change. 

Shamus McConomy is a resident of the Tampa Bay Area where he has spent his career as a lender to small and medium sized businesses.  He holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of South Florida and an M.B.A. from the University of Tampa.  E-mail him at:

8 thoughts on “Congress’ Distinguished Gentlemen (well, maybe not)”

  1. Excellent article! We need to have a line item veto. We need term limits for members of Congress. We need to repeal the 17th Amendment and allow State Governments to once again have a voice in Washington. We need real campaign finance reform which prohibits any company or business or indirectly any individual who has a financial interest before Congress from donating money to a sitting Congressman ( except their own) who sits on a Committee which has jurisdiction over said interest. Congressman can only take money from their disricts, Senators can only take money from the States they represent.


  2. We need a centrist third party that runs things while the Reps and Dems can be irrational extremists to their hearts’ content. Let them hang on forever so long as they are not allowed to accomplish anything. We need to keep just enough members of both parties around to have something to laugh at.


  3. Great article, Shamus. I am a believer in the “educated” voter and I don’t mean educated by CNN or Fox News but educated by reading the freelance points of view from people you are likely to see in the coffee shops sharing the same frustrations about our dusty congress. I will pass your article on, as creating a buzz and getting people thinking before they cast their vote will be way more likely than a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of the very people who would be charged with passing said amendment (whew). Speaking of, I have yet to here a valid (or at least interesting) argument in favor of keeping congress members in power indefinitely. Anybody got a good one? Just asking.


  4. The RaGe,

    It’s partly due to an uneducated public that incumbents get elected. Somehow we need to get voters interested in learning about the issues beyond 30 sound bites. “He’s gonna take your Social Security away” plays better than an detailed analysis of Social Security reform.


  5. Shamus, you are missing your calling……….as a political pundit or advisor or even better as a speech writer…..who can provide great “sound bites”……KEEP IT UP.


  6. Okay, you’ve elequently framed the problem that many of us have recognized for decades: all incumbent politicians are self-serving, corrupt, incompetent, lazy parasites who have collectively begun this nation on a runaway trainride to perdition! Yes, even our smiling local congressman who says all the platitudes we want to hear, votes the way his bosses tell him to, and sends us meaningless “opinion polls” designed solely to garner p[olitical contributions.

    Now, how do we fix it? VTO (vote them out ) T-shirts? “Open season on Rhinos” placards? Term limits won’t work, because all that does is transfer governance to the unelected bureaucrats, the “men behind the curtain” who already have too much power.

    Short of an armed insurrection, the only viable method of which I can conceive is a vigorous “Dump the incumbents” email campaign. Send it to everyone you know, once a week then daily for two weeks before each primary & general election.


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