The perennial political question highlighted by the current presidential campaign is whether it’s possible for the average Joe or Jane to play a role in the founder’s vision of a citizen legislature. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will wage a near billion dollar campaign for President of the United States this year and it is commonplace for representatives and senators to spend well into the millions to get and keep their seats.

Where is the opportunity for non-politicians to share in the operation of a government that has proven corrupt, inept and jaded by the financial sheer scale of political campaigns?  The old adage “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely,” could not be demonstrated any better than by the politics of Washington.

political paybacks

In the nation’s capital politics and money go hand-in-hand.  The much demonized lobbyists could not have the influence they wield if not for the dollars that flow into political campaigns. Special interest groups such as unions, big dollar business and political action committees use the lure of money to drive political policies that benefit them whether for the good of the country or not.  Money translates into political campaigns, staff and particularly media; hanging on to their mega-benefits and power makes politicians bow to those with the money and commonsense is the loser.

There is only one thing that can cure the money-politics link and that’s term limits. Our Congress is made up of political mannequins that pose as servants of the public when they only serve to hang on to their cushy jobs.  There are exceptions but they are not the rule. Look into the statehouses across the nation and you’ll find a better percentage of citizen legislators, but ultimately many of them seek a national political presence that cannot be had without deep pockets in our money-driven society.  It’s not cheap to attain a seat in Congress, but it’s even more expensive to keep that seat.  Remove the lure of political money by limiting the terms that Congressmen can serve and you greatly limit the pay-for-play aspects of our legislature.

Many of our political leaders were wealthy before they took office, but many more became rich while in office.  Certainly at the national level our legislators are well paid, but not to the tune of the millions many attain while supposedly serving the people; it’s the good ol’ boys club, only in this instance the girls play as well.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known by the nickname Joe the Plumber, came to national prominence after a 2008 campaign encounter with Barack Obama.  Wurzelbacher was caught on video tape challenging Obama’s policies on the redistribution of wealth. Wurzelbacher went on to write a book and is now seeking to unseat Rep. Marcy Kaptur in Ohio’s 9th congressional district.  Will Joe the Plumber become Joe the Politician? Will Joe surrender to the kind of money that Washington attracts? Only time will tell.

Even if you ignore the corruption that money brings, there is something to be said for new blood. The late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WVA) served more than 57 years and his counterpart in Arizona Sen. Carl Hayden (D-ARI) served more than 56 years. The list of Representatives and Senators that have served more than two decades is staggering. How well do the ideas of 1959 relate to the challenges of 2012?

A call to political service was once noble; today it’s an opportunity to fill one’s pockets. Regardless of how the presidential election comes out, we must remove the attraction of money, dispense of the opportunity to make politics a career and return to the concept  of the citizen legislator. If you’ve been getting fat on the taxpayer’s dime sitting behind a walnut desk in the people’s legislature it’s time you go home and learn how the rest of us live.