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Why Our Government is Failing the Founding Fathers

I recently visited Monticello, the plantation home of one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson.

His house is an intriguing place, and not just because it’s one of America’s best maintained historical buildings. It intrigued me because it’s a representation of the man who built it. The house is quirky, filled with Jefferson’s small inventions and populated with objects of interest (including many books).

Ultimately, Monticello’s popularity endures not simply because Jefferson was a great politician, but because he was a fascinating dude. Besides being president, he was an inventor, scientist, architect, lawyer, home brewer, writer, gardener and philosopher.

Why do I bring this up now?

Simply put, remembering Jefferson’s past made me realize how much we’ve failed him.

More specifically, our Congressmen, the representatives of the people, of us, have failed him – and all of the Founding Fathers.

Let me explain…

A Vision That Never Materialized

Our Founding Fathers had a vision that serving as a politician was a duty, a sacrifice one made for his country and for his fellow countrymen.

One was not a politician by trade. Rather, he was a lawyer or a teacher or an architect, and – when called upon by his fellow countrymen to serve – he served willingly. Once his duty was fulfilled, he returned to his family, his home and his career.

The Founding Fathers also favored term limits for Congressmen, though such limits never became a reality.

This has led to a stagnant Congress with a despicably low approval rating.

Granted, the blame lies partially in the voters’ hands. If we took the time to learn about our representatives – what they stood for, how they’ve voted in the past – we could make educated decisions. We could enact change. Instead, voters lazily rely on name recognition or opt not to vote for their representatives at all.

As a result, our government, one of the greatest democracies in the history of the world, is chuckling behind our backs. Politicians become lifers in Congress because of money, influence and, ultimately, our failure to vote them out.

According to Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), “We need true citizen legislators who spend their time defending the Constitution, not currying favor with lobbyists.”

Damn straight. Even Mitt Romney talked about the idea of term limits for Congress early in his presidential campaign.

Without term limits, Congressmen stop doing what’s best for their constituents and focus instead on how they can reliably retain their position of power.

And why not? It’s a cushy job. The hours may be long while in session, and one might spend significant time away from his or her family. But the pay is good, the power is desirable, and the job is rarely dependent on performance. (Just look at our last election for proof. Despite historically low approval ratings, 93% of Congressmen up for re-election retained their seats in 2012.)

Of course, I realize that term limits come with their own potential pitfalls. No solution is going to be perfect. And while perfection is obviously too much to ask for, a more dynamic system is not.

A system that rewards ingenuity, insight and passion has truly bipartisan appeal.

Bottom line: Americans deserve more responsive representation, and term limits can effectively stir that particular pot.

In Pursuit of the Truth,

Christopher Eutaw

Christopher Eutaw

, Staff Writer, Politics

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