As a child, I was entranced by my grandfather's occasional rages against the world outside his home. He was active in church and would rant about some personality issue. He liked reading the paper and would wonder aloud why the paperboy was showing up yet again for payment.
But most entertaining of all were his ravings at politicians. Officeholders weren't paid much, his logic went, so they must be in it for the graft. He would go through the logic each time, then blow up toward nobody in particular about the outrage of the thieves. How DARE they!
I sometimes consider why ordinary folks participate, often winning elective positions. There are crass motivations: greed, arrogance, and love of power. As a student studying government in Washington, DC, I was impressed at the continuous activity around United States Senators as they strolled through the halls. Most never opened a door or touched a steering wheel.
I also saw idealism and sometimes even courage. Albert Gore, Sr., the father of should-have-been-President Al Gore, sacrificed his Senate career over the Vietnam War and Civil Rights. Democrats in those days, and since, could be in it for the underdog, folks who were treated unfairly, or who simply did not experience many breaks. They could be in it for peace, or perhaps just for a better world. They could believe in what government can do.
Republicans have fewer opportunities for idealism. Certainly many can believe, against available evidence, that tax breaks for the very wealthy will eventually benefit the economy at large. They may believe, against available evidence, that torture yields useful intelligence information. They may believe that minorities are too pampered or that women have it made. But would any sane person sacrifice a large part of life to cut wealthy taxes 7 percent, or to torture someone, or to try to hurt minorities or women?
That leaves Democrats somewhere between the dark side and helping humanity. And it leaves Republicans with .. well ... the dark side.
Senator David Vitter, R-LA, puts a new wrinkle on the dark side. A champion of family values, he was caught frequenting prostitutes in Washington and back home in Louisiana. A few days ago he was too late for a flight at Dulles Airport. He pushed past a security entrance, setting off alarms, then tried to bully a gate attendant who stopped him: "Do you know who you're dealing with?" He fled when the attendant stood up to him and called security.
So Vitter has discovered another reason to run for office, one my grandfather never thought to include in his rants.
From brothel to airport, the proving of Senatorial manhood.
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