Marco Rubio’s winsome defense of his abysmal voting record- the worst in the Senate this year- is exactly the problem with American politics.
Rubio, who recently announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the Senate, has, of course, talked himself in circles explaining why his lackluster performance is not his fault- he’s running for president, the strict procedural rules make it too hard to accomplish anything, voting isn’t the entirety of a Senator’s duties and he’s still being briefed, etc.
These sundry performances do not mask the real problem, which is the fecklessness of American politicians, and Republicans in particular, when faced with even the least bit of resistance.
The pathetic rejoinder of “It’s too hard,” which politicians inevitably wail in their defense when confronted with their own records should be given not a second of credence. Bureaucracy, when constrained by laws and not personalities, does have a purpose- it slows down government, making it harder for agenda-driven individuals to pass legislation that perverts the public interest and furthers their own. America is not a democracy; it utilizes democratic processes. Dissent is given a place in governance as a tempering agent. It is the height of hubris for politicians like Rubio to complain that these things stand in their way.
When politicians assume office they are gifted the trust of their constituents to look out for their personal interests, whether directly by Congressmen or indirectly through the interest of Senators in their state’s welfare. Rubi Po’s defense that voting is not the entirety of his Senatorial duties does hold some truth, but it would be hard to argue that voting is not the bulk and most important part of these. Presumably, briefings and research are an important part of understanding where one’s duties fall for a vote. And without the intention of voting, it seems unlikely Rubio is doing as much preparation either for his position on the Intelligence Committee or for the general purposes of judging legislation before the Senate. How then, can he claim to be informed on Congressional goings on? Obviously, he can’t. That means he’s ceding some of his responsibility to his constituents. such lackadaisical conduct by itself is shameful. His ability to defend it is infuriating.
Though Rubio’s conduct is at the moment conveniently at the forefront of public perception due to his candidacy, he is by no means the only politicians guilty of shrugging his duties. The whole arrangement has overtones of Henry II’s famous outburst, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” which led to the brutal murder of infamous dissenter Thomas Becket. But once his overenthusiastic retainers had taken his words literally, he shank back in horror, denouncing any responsibility in the affair.
Like the king, politicians are free with their rhetoric on the campaign trail, often testily and bluntly descrying the reckless deferrals of both members of their party and the opposition in dealing with issues like spending and debt. But once they assume office and do not act out their campaign promises, they shirk the blame, citing either polarization or a system that stymies their legislation. So they “go along to get along,” and lecture the American people about their winsome idealism and it’s incompatibility with the grit of reality.
The American people must stop countenancing such behavior. Already, political candidates like Rubio are comfortable shirking their current responsibilities while campaigning for broader and more weighty ones. Certainly there are issues with the structure of Congress and certainly politics has weaponized the reins of government. But the only thing that can fix this situation is elected representatives with the backbone to stand firm through the slog of bureaucratic skirmishes. To do anything else is only to enable political fecklessness.