A Few Minutes with the Mayor – October 2017

I recently had occasion to remember a political figure I listened to every week on the radio. His name was Senator Claghorn and he was a true Southern spokesman. One week, when objecting to the import and sale of apples from the North, and being told that’s where apples grow, his solution was to move the Mason-Dixon Line to Canada and then the apples would be OK.

Senator Claghorn was fictional… the brainchild of one of the most brilliant radio comedians in the golden days of radio, Fred Allen. In many ways Allen was the comic version of another brilliant entertainer and sage of the early 20th Century, Will Rogers. Each was able to cut through the pomposity and sometimes duplicity of the political figures of the day. On the subject of Congress, Rogers said, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Rogers also took aim at the media when he said, “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” One can only imagine what these humorists would have to say in today’s political climate.

We need humor like this today with a political environment growing so fierce that our government is in a de-facto civil war with itself. Washington D.C. has become a battleground for all the self-righteous, pompous, and self-serving political leaders in our nation. It seems the entire Congress is becoming Senator Claghorn clones.

Let’s concede that Republicans and Democrats in Congress don’t like each other. Can they move on and stop demonstrating their contempt for each other and for us and stop their empty rhetoric? Evidently not! Most of them have degrees for some college or university where they must have attended an “Empty Rhetoric 101” class. The rules in that class are… never talk to the average citizen but talk to your base because that will keep you in office, and… always demonize the opposition and keep the average citizen ignorant of the facts.

There are 100 senators in Congress. Most are lawyers. Many are far wealthier than “we the people.” They’re so used to clipping our wallets we’d be better off if we chose 100 barbers to replace all of them. At least when they give us a trim they stop before it’s too late.

Back in the 19th Century, American humorist Mark Twain addressed this problem when he said, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.” That sounds good, but year after year, we keep voting the same faces back in. We do this even though we give Congress an incredibly low approval rating of 16%. If people felt that way about their automobiles, they’d be changing cars faster than a jackrabbit can run.

The Senate in ancient Rome was not an elected body. Members were appointed by the consuls. Those appointed were often Roman magistrates who had finished serving their term in office. The appointment was for life, though a senator could be removed for misconduct. If we are going to continue to vote the same people in year after year, we are operating in the same manner as the Romans did. It almost gives truth to something else that Mark Twain said. “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”

The fact is, this country succeeds in spite of politics and politicians. The bus drivers, the school teachers, the shop clerks, the mailmen and women, the garage mechanics, and yes, all our barbers and hair dressers, our heroic police and fire staffs… it is these and others who make this country work. If you don’t think so, try doing without them for a couple of months. It is their hard work, and their ethics that keep this country great, not all the degrees from Harvard that live and work in high places such as Washington D.C. This is as true today as when Will Rogers said in his day, “This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it.” Remember that when you turn the news on and you won’t feel so depressed