Editorial: It's a bad idea, gov

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Let’s give Gov. Bev Perdue the benefit of the doubt. Let’s grant that when she uttered the notion that “we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years” to counter the partisan gridlock in Washington, she was engaging in hyperbole or satire to make a point about the difficulty of finding bipartisan solutions to the nation’s economic problems.
Even so, while her criticism was on target, her choice of words wasn’t. No, this wasn’t as controversial as Rick Perry’s comments on Social Security or Michelle Bachmann’s thoughts on vaccines — after all, they’re presidential candidates on a national stage — but it was stumble-tongued on a couple of counts.
For one thing, the politically charged atmosphere that Perdue references means no comment will be left unturned — especially as the gubernatorial election season heats up. Predictably, her political opponents were on it like stink on road kill. “It’s one thing for Governor Perdue to suggest that we should suspend congressional elections as a very odd approach to getting the economy moving,” said former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a likely Republican candidate for governor. “It’s an entirely different thing for the governor to get her staff to cover up her blatant mistake by saying she was just joking.” As a veteran politician in the digital era, Perdue should know that sound bites trump context, and after-the-fact explanations simply feed the next news cycle. This one even went national, including coverage by Fox News and The Hill.
The more serious pitfall in her comments, joking or not, is the idea that politicians are so hopelessly driven by the desire to remain in office, they’re incapable of acting from any impulse other than pure political self-interest and must be protected from their own short-sighted motivations. That’s blaming the process, rather than the people making the decisions — or failing to make them, as the case may be. Surely Perdue wouldn’t describe her own motivations that way.
While the electoral process may labor under nonstop campaign cycles, “safe” districts and mountains of special-interest cash, political factionism has been with us from the beginning of the republic. That’s one reason the Founders established two-year terms for members of the U.S. House. It allows voters to make course corrections whenever they don’t like the way things are going. Ultimately, it’s a way to hold politicians accountable. If you think your representatives are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, there’s a simple remedy: Rather than suspend elections, go to the polls and suspend feckless politicians.