Americans have long suspected that their elected representatives aren’t really representing them.
But once upon a time they at least pretended to do so. While such formulaic acting may not have made for an ideal state of affairs, it hinted at a residual need to show accountability to voters. It increasingly seems our modern crop of politicians doesn't even feel the need to perform the charade anymore.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported April 14 on the ongoing concerns about aged Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who at 88 years old is showing ever-worsening signs of severe mental decline:
Four U.S. senators, including three Democrats, as well as three former Feinstein staffers and [a] California Democratic member of Congress told The Chronicle in recent interviews that her memory is rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California.
They said that the memory lapses do not appear to be constant and that some days she is nearly as sharp as she used to be. During the March confirmation hearing for soon-to-be-Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Feinstein appeared composed as she read pertinent questions, though she repeated comments to Jackson about the judge’s composure in the face of tough questioning. But some close to her said that on her most difficult days, she does not seem to fully recognize even longtime colleagues.Unfortunately, this is hardly a new issue with the geriatric class of career politicians that inhabits Washington, D.C. In very much related news, Hawaii news site Honolulu Civil Beat related April 11 how an ambitious young Aloha State Democrat member of Congress doesn't even show up for work anymore:
A Civil Beat analysis of [Rep, Kai] Kahele’s voting record found that over the past four months Kahele has rarely spent any time in Washington....
So far in 2022, Kahele has only cast five votes in person, all of them over the course of three days in January.
His remaining 120 votes — including one on April 2 to decriminalize marijuana that he boasted about in a press release including photos of him at a Big Island dispensary — were cast via proxy, meaning he had asked a fellow member to vote on his behalf on the House floor while he stayed home in the islands.Not doing the job he was elected to do apparently is allowing Kahele to double-dip on his earnings potential as he plots to further climb the political ladder:
Kahele, too, continues to work as a Hawaiian Airlines pilot, a job that paid him nearly $120,000 in 2020, according to his most recent House financial disclosure report. As a member of Congress he earns an annual salary of $174,000....
But in Kahele’s case the suddenness of his decision to stop showing up for in-person work was almost as surprising as the revelation that he was considering a run for governor before completing his first term in Congress.The Feinstein and Kahele sagas both share a common theme: they illustrate a total disdain for the common citizen by our elected elites that has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.
There are two ways of expressing this widening gulf between representative and constituent in American today. One: the clinging to power even when one is no longer fit to serve. Feinstein is staying on because she is the physical embodiment of a seat of political influence and private interest. This is the precise reason the Republican establishment kept dying Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran in the Senate in 2015 even though it was clearly and painfully obvious that he was suffering from dementia:
[Cochran] was clearly displaying signs of serious cognitive impairment during his re-election campaign in 2014. Having already served a staggering six six-year terms in the Senate, Cochran was dragged out again by the Republican establishment to protect a GOP seat from populist conservative challenger Chris McDaniel.
He manifestly proved throughout the campaign that he was mentally unfit to remain in office.
Cochran made a bizarre comment about doing “all kind of indecent things with animals” as a child in one campaign appearance. He told a reporter he hadn’t heard about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning primary defeat, and also said the Tea Party “is something I don’t really know a lot about.”
Despite all this, the Haley Barbour political machine in Mississippi dragged Cochran to the finish line, with the help of Democrat voters in a Republican primary runoff, and Cochran was re-elected for a seventh term.
Back in Washington for a fifth decade, Cochran at one point forgot where the Senate chamber was located and cast the wrong vote on a bill.How can anyone claim with a straight face that this man served the people of Mississippi well in such a condition? Cochran was forced to resign his Senate seat for health reasons in April 2018 and died in May 2019. Feinstein’s impairment may be just as stark, with staffers constantly on guard to conceal it, The Chronicle writes:
Even those who consider themselves among Feinstein’s closest allies worry her health and memory struggles will rapidly deteriorate or cause public embarrassment.
She rarely engages with the public outside her official duties as a member of Senate committees, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which handles sensitive national intelligence, nor does she do extended sit-down interviews with the media. She does field questions from the press in the Senate hallways, but often responds by saying she doesn’t know enough to comment or gives nonspecific responses....
Feinstein has at least one staff member with her at essentially all times in the Capitol. And the senator is guided by staff members much more than her colleagues are.And then there is Door Number Two: Our self-serving politicians today don't even hide the fact that they are in office to advance their personal agendas, not to fulfill any duties to constituents. Another Republican from 2014 is a textbook example of this.
At the time that Virginia's Eric Cantor was toppled in a 2014 GOP primary by challenger Dave Brat, he was poised to become the next speaker of the House. Upon losing, a piqued Cantor could not even see fit to finish out his term in office. Rather than even to appear to put on a show of working for the people he supposedly represented, Cantor resigned and then immediately took up a lucrative Wall Street job. Politico reported in August 2014:
In his decision to quit Congress altogether, Eric Cantor gave only one reason: so his successor could get a head start and “have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session.”
But several GOP lawmakers and aides suggested to POLITICO that there was more to this move. The last thing he wanted, they said, was to endure the humbling shift from 11 years in the leadership to being a back bencher, even if only for four months. And, they said he was already focused on the next chapter of his life in the private sector....
One House Republican lawmaker said that as soon as Cantor lost, “his mind already began to focus on the next part of his life.”Cantor officially resigned on Aug. 18. A little more than two weeks later, there was this:
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is moving to Wall Street, taking a job with investment bank Moelis & Co., the firm said.
Cantor, 51, who resigned last month after an upset loss in a Republican primary in June, will be vice chairman and managing director at the 7-year-old company founded by longtime Southern California investment banker Ken Moelis.
The veteran lawmaker “will provide strategic counsel to the firm’s corporate and institutional clients on key issues,” the company said in a news release Monday night. Cantor also “will play a leading role in client development and advise clients on strategic matters,” it said.Kai Kahele is angling to run for Hawaii governor. Spending all his time back on the islands helps advance that goal. Honolulu Civil Beat notes:
His social media accounts, however, have shown him traveling around Hawaii, including between islands, to meet with local officials and constituents and hold press events while courting a run for the governor’s office.An April 13 tweet from the congressman shows just how far removed from D.C. he is:
Kicking off my 5-day congressional site visit to the Garden Isle of Kauaʻi with a little help from braddah Iz 🎶— Congressman Kaiali‘i Kahele (@RepKahele) April 13, 2022
Looking forward to engaging with communities across the island, and bringing their concerns to the federal level 🤙🏽 pic.twitter.com/1XDPaN28R3
Kahele’s stated reasons for shirking his tasks in Washington are even more shameless. He not-so-deftly attempts to utilize two favorite dark specters for Democrats to justify his absence. Fox News reported April 12:
Kahele is "deeply concerned" for the health of his family and sought to "limit his exposure" to COVID-19 by cutting "cross-country travel."
"The Congressman is concerned for the health and safety of the communities with whom he interacts," Kahele's office said. "He is also deeply concerned about the health and safety of members of his own family because he lives in a multi-generational home. Unfortunately, variants of COVID-19 continue to spread. Just last week members of leadership in the U.S. House and White House contracted the virus.If coronavirus hysteria isn't enough to placate the rubes, Kehele is more than willing to play an even more pathetic card. Honolulu Civil Beat noted in February in an article on Kahele’s gubernatorial ambitions:
Kahele said he remains focused on his congressional duties.
But he also said that the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol in 2021 had “a major impact” on his wife and their three kids, adding that they were “blocks from the Capitol.” They decided afterward that D.C. was not the place the family wanted to live, instead favoring staying in Hilo, which Kahele described as “a special place.The disconnect between elected officials and general public only continues to get worse in our nation today.