Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

The art of resigning needs long-term vision and a bit of patience

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Patience and politics have never gone together too well, but these days, patience is as rare an object to find as a well-paying job or a Chicago Cubs National League pennant.

Somebody does something, or is even accused of something, and the cries of “Resign” flow through the atmosphere.

There should be a standard for when people resign and when they don’t. Yet these days, the landscape is littered with calls for resignation, some of which are completely justified or others in hysterics. But who should arbitrate the standard for when to resign?

A powerful politician gets accused of questionable activities. At first, there is speculation, with not much more to go on. Resign or don’t resign?

Ever since Charles Rangel was first accused of questionable behavior, those on the right have called for him to resign, especially as House Ways and Means Chairman.

To have Rangel resign before proof of guilt was established was a move by the right to taint something or someone that may not have been guilty. But when guilt was established, once the report came out, Rangel did resign.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a lame duck as it is, is still the governor of South Carolina. John Ensign, accused of a number of sordid activities involving a mistress and money, is still a senator from Nevada. David Vitter, who all but admitted to a crime, is still a senator from Louisiana, and is running for re-election.

Despite calls for them to resign, they are still gainfully employed without much political pressure to do otherwise. But the difference between Rangel and Sanford/Ensign/Vitter is that the only one of them who got seriously investigated is Rangel.

In Sanford’s case, the judgment area is South Carolina, so we might be forgiven if we actually applied to standards, given how the state has been run. On the other hand, when Sanford’s potential replacement compares the poor to stray animals, maybe replacing Sanford would be worse.

But Ensign and Vitter are our responsibilities since, well, their decisions as senators affect all Americans. Yet the mainsteam of American politics doesn’t seem to think there needs to be an investigation.

This makes what Eliot Spitzer did all the more remarkable. When Spitzer got caught with the whole prostitute thing, he announced that he would resign in six days, and he did. Have to give him some credit for that.

There are calls for Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to resign from the Senate, though in her case, Hutchison is to blame for a path so wobbly, watching what she has done for the last year or so can cause motion sickness. While remaining as senator, Hutchison was also running in the Texas gubernatorial primary.

The first one in this saga to mention resignation was the candidate herself — Hutchison. She said she was going to resign numerous times, and broke her own promise numerous times. So some want to push her out first.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) voluntarily offered to resign from Congress to concentrate more on his run for governor, then extended the time he would stay in Congress. No wonder voters are confused, and frustrated.

Then again, we have seen more voluntary resignations lately in Congress. Mel Martinez (R-FL) left his only Senate term early, because he felt like it. Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) resigned their seats early, but that was to tie in to being lobbyists.

The teabagging mentality is reducing what little patience there is in Washington. It’s funny that they feel Hutchison should go, but not Ensign or Vitter, who violated (at least in accusations) the family values they tend to support.

For those who scream about the Constitution, they should realize that innocent until proven guilty is still important, and that a rush to judgment isn’t fair. Still, others should be investigated swiftly so we know if they are guilty.

Voters should realize that electing someone means they are going to normally have a chance to fill out the elected term. Calling for resignation willy-nilly undermines democracy. But not calling for resignation when key trusts are violated also undermines democracy.

Our problems — numerous as they are — did not happen overnight. And they won’t be solved that quickly either, especially with the mentality in the U.S. Senate. Patience might be a virtue, but it needs to be a staple in Congress.

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Written by democracysoup

March 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

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