How do we hold their feet to the fire?

Curt Dale

I just received a short comment from a dear friend that is an often said but rarely registered plan approaching an election. He wrote, "We must hold the feet of those we elect to the fire. Empty promises and abundant rhetoric can't be tolerated." I fully agree. However, the question that arises is, "How do we hold their feet to the fire?" once they get into office and start to get so comfortable with all that power. How do we shut down the overwhelming, empty rhetoric? How do we hold them accountable for broken promises?

The memory span of politicians is embarrassingly short. Maybe I should say that is also true of the voters. But, I'll stick to politicians for a few minutes. Politicians are trained in using "I can't recall" and "I forget!" yet they make that shortcoming attributable to the dire weight of their duties--which I've come to realize is a lie, too. Most chase hither and thither, dodging accountability instead of doing something. Nobody could work as much as politicians say they do yet create so many debacles as they do.

Politicians erect shields around themselves which are generally impregnable. Maybe not right at first, but the staffers quickly plug any leaks. Their adoring, handpicked, retinue of staff is constantly hovering, praising and giving them total confirmation that they are infallible. This was often proven in the spate of Town Hall Meetings last year where a few of them heard words they'd been barricaded from beginning moments after their swearing in ceremony. The bulk of them were totally overwhelmed and had no idea of how to react to anything less than adulation.

There are innumerable ploys that I see set up to keep the politicians from ever hearing opinions from the grass roots. First, is the "I know better than anyone!" stance that comes right along with the flush of victory at the polls. Next comes the fence around their own state or district that bars any opinions from citizens beyond their borders. Gradually, their own zip codes become the total input. Then it becomes the carefully selected inputs from within the zip code. Heaven forbid any dissonance should be heard. Staffers pick what goes to the politician. This phalanx of staffers read all letters and choose what to pass on. We know the politician doesn't read the bills actually voted on, so why would he or she read any correspondence? Leave that to the staffers, too. The fallacy with that is that the staff will refrain from sending whatever words that might offend to the vaunted leader. The messenger doesn't want to be shot.

Then there's the excuse for not accepting correspondence because our envelopes are so dangerous. Many choose not to accept our snail mail because they fear there may be anthrax, talcum powder or halitosis placed in the envelope. Gosh, their highness-es might get germs from where we, the great unwashed, licked the envelope. Any reason is good enough to keep from receiving bad news or a discordant note.

Having seen the dissonant note, the staffer sends out an embarrassingly non-applicable, evasive, mundane reply, insulting our intelligence. That is what we have come to expect from any of our elected officials, whether of our own party or not. If you are angry enough, call enough and write enough, you might finally get a reply that has some remote relevance, but don't count on it. That is too committal.

But, they'll make hay with what you wrote to them. That return address of yours goes into their mailing list, and within a few days, you will be bombarded with his or her mailers, extolling how wonderfully well they are doing things--even if it is in direct opposition to the concern you wrote them about a couple of weeks earlier, and they did exactly what you DID NOT want them to do. But, of course, they know better, always!

I wrote blistering letters to Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet recently. To no avail! But, I'm now on their mailing list and e-mail list. Had they read what I wrote they would not have bothered to write me and brag of their great accomplishments. Now, I'm constantly bombarded with their blather about what a great job they're doing and asking for my support. I emphasize support, not advice or comment!

I wish I knew how to hold their feet to the fire. I wish I knew how to keep them from getting so cozy, comfortable and cocksure of themselves. We Republicans can see this in our GOP leaders who are touting the candidates we constituents didn't even vote for in the Primary, and thumbing their noses at the rank and file of the party. It is happening in numerous states as we approach the November 2nd election. Official Republican organization leaders contributing money to support non-Republican candidates over the GOP's official nominees.

I will suggest how we must hold the feet of those we put in office to the fire. It is through the way we deal with the local and state party leaders. It has to be through the county and state committees. When it comes time to re-elect the members of the committees, that's where it has to start. Those who have forced candidates down our throats or who have jumped ship in the middle of the campaigns have to be voted out off committees. We need to put committees in place who are broken from their fascination with the old has-beens and losers who are still holding the power over the party with a death grip. We have to break through those little closed circles in the GOP from the bottom up. If we don't, and even if we win big in 2010, these committees will so dilute and disrupt what we are sending those newly elected Republicans to Denver or Washing to do, that we'll be right back in the same old Go Along To Get Along mentality that has brought us to where we are today.

I'm sure I've been a total pain you know where to the leaders in my part of Colorado. I intended to be. This column is intended to be even more painful, and I'll not make one single apology or excuse for what I've written and said. I think poor leadership has been and is being exerted in these committees. The committees are the power in the party, and we have to control that power as the voting body, not the small, elite circle that currently does so.

If we voters hold that power, then it will be up to the people who are holding office as Republicans to have to toe the mark on keeping pledges and upholding the party platform, reporting to us, not to the little circles of elites who could care less about the body politic of the GOP. If they promise it, we expect it to be done. If they say it, we demand it be so! Forget the compromising and reaching across the aisle! This ain't John McCain Country any more!

© Colonel Curtis D. Dale, PhD USAF (Ret), October 2010

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