Friday, April 30, 2010

Power? Who Needs It?

Ramesh Ponnuru questions whether House Republicans really want to win control. Kevin Drum raises his eyebrows. "Holy Cow," he responds succinctly.

Seems to me you can consider the question on two levels. One, macro: would Republicans be better off in 2012 if they lost in 2010? Some probably think so: it seems to have worked that way with Clinton/Gingrich in 2002. The Wall Street Journal offers a crisp summary of this perspective.

But consider the micro. Let's face it, most Congressmen of both parties are, or were, pipsqueaks, people whom nobody ever heard of (at least before election day), people for whom the job of Congressperson is the chance of a lifetime. You can see this when you consider how much they have to abase themselves just to get there.

And so now what? Get "power" you say, but exactly what do you mean by that? Recall the hallowed distinction: some folks live for politics but others live off politics. For a great many, the key to success is not the power to alter a semi-colon in a 1300-page reform bill; it is the power to control a nicer car, more booze and broads, skybox tickets, a better class of golfing vacation.

Given the general level of voter grumpiness, you're not going to get a lot of those goodies as long as you stay in Congress--or if you do, you stand a good chance of spending a medium-term vacation in government housing outside Tucson. You're much better off redirecting your gaze away from the Speaker's office and on down Pennsylvania Avenue to the road to riches we know as K Street, where you get to dole out money, rather than having to beg for it. Now, that is power worthy of the name. If indeed that is your goal, a few terms as a foot-soldier in the Congressional battalion may be a necessary way station. But to have to bear the actual responsibilities of governing can be no more than an onerous distraction en route.

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