It appears that We The People have received a needed bit of holiday cheer after all. The Republicans in the U.S. House had to back down and agree with the bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate to extend the middle-class tax cut by two months, in order to give negotiators time to work out a longer-term agreement. And here in Indiana, embarrassing buffoon Charlie White was declared ineligible to serve as Secretary of State.
The House GOP may finally have worn out any remaining patience of even members of their own party; it was clear that they were being intransigent simply because they could be. None of their explanations made any sense, and even their usual defenders deserted them. (I almost felt sorry for Boehner, who was evidently backed into this particular corner by his own party’s most extreme elements.) The “crazy caucus” is rather clearly motivated only by one thing: animus to Obama. It will be interesting to see how many of these sorry excuses for public servants survive the 2012 election.
Speaking of sorry excuses, how do we even try to understand Charlie White?
It is one thing to be ethically obtuse. We have a lot of that in Indiana these days, as Matt Tully noted in this morning’s column. It is quite another to defy calls for your resignation by leaders of your own party and virtually every newspaper in the state. The job of Secretary of State includes administration of the voting laws; the irony of having a Secretary of State who was guilty of voter fraud was obvious to everyone except Charlie White. By refusing to resign when he might have done so, White didn’t just give Indiana politics a black eye; if appellate courts uphold Judge Rosenberg’s (well-reasoned) decision, he may end up costing his own party automatic ballot access, among other things.
However satisfying it may be to see the House reluctantly do the right thing, and to see not just Charlie White but several other elected officials get their “just deserts” (Paul Bateman, Lincoln Plowman, etc.), the only thing that will ultimately fix our sorry politics is us. We The People elected these sorry specimens. We are the ones who didn’t pay attention, who shrugged off ethical lapses because “all politicians are dirty.” (They aren’t, but we are creating an environment that is pretty off-putting to the good people who want to serve.)
Until we are ready to engage, to work for a government that will work for us, we’ll continue to get politicians who serve their contributors and cronies. Self-government requires participation. Voting is important, but it isn’t sufficient.
Maybe Santa will bring us some civic engagement this year. We can hope.