Jack Ohman

Just say no to congress...

The Bee Capitol Alert blog notes that Leticia Perez, who just lost the Senate District 16 race to Andy Vidak, told the Daily Show with Jon Stewart that she "resoundingly" rejected overtures for her to run for Congress.

Now that Perez has just come off a losing race for the state Senate, I am sure her appetite for running for Congress is even lower. I have never met Perez. I have never met Vidak. I don't care whether she runs, or not. It's her life and her call.

But, when otherwise smart, ambitious people decide, well, I don't have the stomach for serving in Congress, then here's what happens: Rand Paul. Anthony Weiner. Michele Bachmann. Steve King. And so on. Fill in the blank; there are dozens of them in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Congress becomes a place where only the kooky and the dysfunctional are willing to serve.

You people are aware that Congress has the power to tax and to declare war, right? It's not a game show. It's where serious ideas are proposed that can destroy your finances or kill you and your family are made. 

Of course, there are lots of good people -- even some great people -- in Congress right now. But when someone bright and engaging like Perez takes a pass because she doesn't think she can get anything done, well, that's catastrophically bad news. There are thousands of people who would make fantastic, informed, brilliant, able members of Congress, and they're saying: thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather not get decapitated as my primary line of work.

I know this is really hard to believe, but, as bad as things are in Congress are now, they are going to get a lot worse if you cannot attract sane, decent people to serve there. When you have a former president of the United States say things like, essentially, we don't have a functioning democracy in this country, then who's going to run it? The NSA? The Koch Brothers? The Fortune 500? Lunatics from talk radio? Glenn Beck? Al Sharpton? You name your worst case scenario, and there are always bottom feeders with name ID to fill the void. And we're getting them.

I can easily pinpoint why good people don't want to run.

A. It costs too much money.

B. If you do run, your personal life becomes a national reality show.

C. If you get there, you go head-to-head with late-stage obsessive compulsive disorder megalomaniacs.

I could fix this system easily, if someone would let me do it, and it's not an original idea. A few years ago, a former reporter for The Washington Post started a movement to make television stations provide free air time for political candidates. As it stands now, hundreds of millions of dollars are earned by these stations, along with a handful of political consultants that buy the air time. That's why these folks have to spend a majority of their time fundraising.

They buy the air time to catch the attention of voters who aren't really clued into how the system works. Those people determine the election. It's not a philosophical thing, really. It's just a group of wealthy people, on both sides, trying swing a group of people who, uh, aren't well-versed in the democratic process. If we ended this feeding frenzy of campaign cash going to these networks and local affiliates, we could lower the cost of the campaigns. Period.

I saw a fascinating poll the other day. It reported that two thirds of the American people didn't know that Obamacare was a law.

Two. Thirds.

How can we have a functioning democracy when we're so ill-informed, and when smart, not crazy people don't want to serve?

So I sympathize with Leticia Perez. I really do. Who wants to go into that environment? I am pretty sure I wouldn't, either. I am sure that the Kern County Commission will continue to enjoy her services. 

Meanwhile, someone else will run. Maybe they'll be the next Thomas Jefferson or the next Dwight D. Eisenhower. I don't know. 

I just want to make sure it's not the next Glenn Beck or Al Sharpton.