Why this is a bad time for any politician to be asking me for money

I just got a phone call from the Democratic committee to reelect President Obama. The campaign representative went through the usual schpiel, thanking me for my past donations, pointing out that the Republicans are launching a $20 million ad campaign, and that the Democrats and the Obama reelection campaign needs to be prepared to respond in kind. Would I be willing to make a small donation of $150 to keep Obama in office?

I have never been so frustrated by politics as I have been witnessing what’s been going on these last few weeks. I have to think that most other Americans are equally frustrated. That being the case, the endgame to this debt ceiling crisis is pretty clear to me. In fact, for politicians in Washington, the endgame is the same regardless of the outcome at this point. As irresponsible and selfish as both sides have shown themselves to be, I think there will be a huge revolt against incumbents in the next election–one on a scale that we haven’t seen for a very long time. Congress has dug themselves into a no-win situation for themselves:

  • If they come to a last minute agreement, people will remember the bickering and stress that they had to endure in the weeks leading up to a last minute agreement. They will wonder why such a compromise couldn’t have been reached weeks or months earlier. And they will recognize that it is not the process so much as the people involved that made a mockery of things. And that will come into play during the next election.
  • If they don’t come to a last minute agreement and the U.S. defaults on its debts, well, that will piss people off as well and we’ll see that reflected in the next election.

The thing is, at this point, I think members of Congress realize this too. They are in a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t situation. All of Congress has essentially become a lame duck Congress in one fell swoop.

What makes matters even more frustrating is that there really isn’t much we can do about it. Sure, we can call our representatives and receive busy signals and maybe get a staffer who will “understand” our concerns. We can make use of social networks to communicate but all this does is distract Congress from the problem. And the problem they need to solve is not really the debt crisis. That is very short term. The problem is how to get back to representing the people, and not building a foundation for their future career in politics.

I wonder, if we had term limits, if we would be the situation we find ourselves today.

All of this is to say that now seems to be the worst possible time for political campaigns to be calling upon their constituents to fund them into the future. I see two main reasons this is a mistake:

  1. Congress and the President can’t control their own spending. Why should I believe that a campaign can?
  2. Until Congress and the President are performing to my satisfaction, they get no money from me.

I explained this to the fellow on the phone. He said that we all need to do what we can do keep the President in office. How about $100? I said that I am not yet convinced the President has earned a place back in office. How he leads us through this crisis will determine whether or not gets back there. Despite my being a registered (and lifelong) Democrat, this is not a fait accompli. Show me leadership. Show me you can work with what you’ve got and then I’ll decide whether or not to give you more money.

I told the fellow on the phone that no politician was getting more money from me until they stop worrying about their political careers, start working together and worrying about what’s best for the entire country. President Obama is not just the President of the Democrats and the Republican controlled House does not just represent the Republicans. They work for all of us.

It may be that politicians never stop worrying about advancing their careers over what’s best for the country. It may be that the two sides split further apart, rather than coming together. And in that case, they won’t see any money from me. That’s about the most substantial protest I can make, and by the sound of the voice of the fellow on the phone, I suspect I am not the only one he’s hearing this from.

It is often said that our system is not perfect but it’s the best there is. Maybe that is true, I don’t know. But I do know this: best system or not, the folks in Washington, House, Senate and the President, are making a mockery of the system. You are supposed to leave a system better off than you found it. So far, that is not the case.


  1. A lot of people are saying term limits are the solution to the current gridlock, but aren’t the current congressional freshmen being reported as being the most resistant to compromise?

    1. I’ve argued for term limits on several occasions over the last four or five years. Like any solution, it is one that changes with the times. The pendulum swings towards it for a while, and then away from it. Right now I think we should be moving in that direction, but I recognize that it is a cultural change as well as a political one. It eliminates the notion of “career politician.” That is not to say that politicians should not be paid for their service–they should be. But they serve their term and move on. The goal is trying to leave things better than you found them and not worrying how you are going to get reelected. Cultural changes take a while, but one way of forcing the issue is to quit donating money to politicians who seem to be working for themselves instead of the people they serve. A bare war chest makes it much harder to run…


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