The problem in Washington has at least two dimensions. One is the virus of corruption that does not discriminate between parties. The other is the character of the individuals voters send to Washington, too many of whom become corrupt because they stay too long and appear too weak to withstand the pressures of lobbyists, money and the pretense that Washington power is real power.
There is a way to fix this, or at least make it better. But it would require an act of selflessness not usually associated with politics and politicians.
In the 10th district of North Carolina, the Iredell County commissioner is challenging first-term Republican congressman Patrick McHenry in the May 4 primary. Leaving aside whether one term is enough, commissioner Scott Keadle has the right attitude about serving in Congress. He told the Gaston Gazette, "The U.S. Congress is not a career. You can't possibly be a conservative and say your only job is being a legislator." Keadle has signed a pledge to serve no more than three terms. He has also promised not to vote for congressional pay raises (now automatic) and says he will not accept a congressional pension.
In the 1990s, term limits got some traction when voters demanded them for state legislators, governors and mayors. But in 1995, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states could not impose qualifications for prospective members of the U.S. Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution. The decision invalidated the Congressional term limit provisions of 23 states.
Another way to the same end must be found, even if it means turning out the party in power in every election until one party gets it and starts acting in the public's interest.