Voters are Real Arbiters of Ethics

According to the Washington Post, Rep. William Jefferson, now indicted, is getting the attention of the house leadership. Republicans moved quickly to be part of the act, though I don’t see too much delay on the part of Democrats either. But here’s why the voters are the real arbiters of ethics:

In short order, the House last night approved a Democratic motion that would make an ethics investigation automatic upon the indictment of any House member and then approved a Republican motion that could lead to Jefferson’s expulsion.

Nice, fast work. Later we see the following:

GOP leaders made no moves to expel Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) from the House after their indictments last year, going out of their way to try to preserve a path for DeLay’s return to the leadership and saying Ney would have to decide whether to resign.

Now various partisans will argue about whose activities are worse, and when everyone should have acted, but I will suggest that the reason Republicans didn’t move quite so fast prior to the election was that they had been in power too long and had gotten a bit arrogant. Any politicians feel they can get away with it, they’re going to protect their own, whether they are Republican or Democrat.

But this also demonstrates the potential power of voters. I commented before on the re-election of Rep. Jefferson even under an ethics cloud, though one should notice the first comment on that post in which Laura makes some good points on that election. But nonetheless, in the long term the voters have their say, because a certain laxness on the subject of ethics helped lose the Republicans their majority, and that same fact holds the current Democratic leadership somewhat accountable.

It’s not a perfect situation, but if the voters don’t give up too quickly, they have the power to change things. Two keys: 1) Don’t lose interest. Make ethics part of your voting decisions. 2) Don’t get the idea that one party or the other has a monopoly on clean government. They will govern as cleanly as you make them.

Hold the politicians accountable!

Similar Posts