By Connie Stevens
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton 1887
One of the main things which so turns many people off of politics is the corruption they see in the political process. People elect candidates who they believe to be honorable and decent but when these very same elected get into office – often they seem to change, and for the worse. This is true for politicians at all levels of government.
Politicians as a whole seem all too concerned about protecting their job i.e. winning reelection and less about representing their constituents’ interests. It would be bad enough if politicians just courted major donors in order to finance their reelection campaigns. But some unscrupulous elected officials actually enact laws directly for their own job-security benefit! Such incumbency protection laws are to circumvent democracy and are the epitome of cronyism.
We are seeing this right now here in Virginia, with § 24.2-509 Section B – blatant incumbency protection disgracefully codified into Virginia law.
Background information: It is important to understand Virginia’s two main political parties, the Democrat and Republican, both have governing documents which specify the Party gets to choose how they will determine their nominee. And by the Party – that means the individuals who are members of that party do the deciding. This makes perfect sense – why would you want outsiders – people who hold different political principles – to be involved in and able to influence your political party’s business? A political party’s being able to decide its own nominee is the essence of freedom of association.
Section A of § 24.2-509 affirms it is up to the Party to determine the method of nominating its candidates for office. However Section B, negates those Constitutional Rights of self-determination and freedom of association, by enacting exceptions stating it is up to the incumbent to specify which method his party must choose its nominee. Section B places the incumbent as the final arbiter – not his constituents who make up his party.
Our state elected officials who voted for Section B ‘exceptions’ voted for their own and fellow incumbents’ office protection and job security, while violating their own parties’ Bylaws – and worst of all they betrayed their own constituents in the process! The General Assembly members who voted for this law essentially disenfranchised their own constituents. Each one of those members who voted for this incumbency protection became his own nominee despot.
This past January, Senator Ralph Smith (R) tried to right this wrong by introducing Senate Bill 1255 which would strike out the self-serving ability of the incumbent to favor himself at the expense of his party and constituents. Sadly this bill was killed in committee. Kudos to the 7 Senators – Vogel, Martin, Obenshain, Smith, Carrico, Reeves, Garrett – who voted against killing the bill.
I’m sure none of our state elected officials look in the mirror and think they see a despot looking back at them. But if the tyranny fits, they should wear it and admit to it. Using the power of your elected office to further cement your power – to protect your job – IS corruption and tyranny of the highest order.
Meanwhile shame on State Senator Emmett Hanger for evoking this despot’s dream, in direct contradiction to his Senate District Republican Committee’s decision. Senator Hanger wrongly believes he has the moral right to override his constituents’ wishes, while conveniently using his elected official’s power to his unfair advantage. Senator Hanger also thinks he can break his own political party’s Bylaws, again to help improve his odds of winning the Republican nomination. He is doing all this, as well as forcing the 24th Senate District Republican Committee to file a lawsuit to assert their Constitutional Right, solely in order to hang onto his seat and help out his cronies in office.
If the lawsuit filed by the 24th Senate District Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia is NOT successful in overturning this unconstitutional incumbency protection, we Virginians will have to insist next year the General Assembly does overturn this tyranny!
Our elected officials need to clean up their act. But they won’t until they feel the weight of our scrutiny; they won’t until WE MAKE THEM! We The People need to wake up and re-take charge of our governance, and we must remind our politicians they serve us! Our elected officials need to worry more about adhering to the Constitution and less against currying favor with their fellow incumbents, business donors, or party leaders.