What is happening in Washington DC, our state capital, is a parallel plot...
Consider this basic story line: the newly elected John Q. Congressman, coming from a campaign victory in his district, runs into a different set of three witches on his way to Washington DC: the Special Interest Witch, the DNC/RNC Witch, and the Congressional Leadership Witch. This coven of Washington Witches all work together to tickle the ear of Mr. Congressman, prophesying for him the stature of American royalty with power, position, and fortune, possibly for the rest of his days. There are, of course, strings attached. But no quid pro quo obligation is as powerful as that same human failing that Macbeth fell prey to: personal ambition, the prerequisite to corruption.
Looking at today’s mess through the prism of Macbeth came to me after recently receiving an email newsletter from Newt Gingrich. I am still curious as to how I got on their list, but here comes a newsletter that states:
The fight ahead to repeal and replace the outrageous health care bill will require sustained citizen leadership and an understanding of the success we can achieve as seen from President Reagan's legacy.
Well, that sounds promising. Citizen leadership is good. Citizen leadership is what I have been working for. I have been participating in movements like GOOOH for the whole purpose of advancing citizen leadership. So I return to reading the Newt Newsletter:
To help prepare you for this fight ahead, this week we are pleased to offer you our Real Change bundle for only $45: An autographed copy of Newt's step-by-step, issue-by-issue guide for citizen leaders plus the best-selling, definitive film of Ronald Reagan's impact on American history.
Really? Only $45.00? I can have it autographed? By Newt? The erstwhile champion of term limits?
I started thinking about the political career of Newt Gingrich, and how that paired with his unbelievable offer of Real Change, a bundle for only $45.00, autographed (!). Through free association, that led to me thinking of a snake oil potion salesman. And then, of course, the subsequent association with the Macbeth mantra:
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Macbeth (IV,i)
The question to me is how does a career politician think it possible, or even proper, to lead the way to real citizen leadership in this country? It’s not that Newt is not right about the notion – we members of the GOOOH revolution are all over the idea that true reform for our country will include the leadership of its citizenry. The problem is that Newt is the very thing that we eschew. He is a case study in how too much power for too long eventually renders a person in politics to become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Let’s look at Newt's career timeline:
Early Career: History Teacher-- an awesome history professor at U of West Georgia.
1974 and 1976 – two unsuccessful runs at Congress against Democrat Jack Flynt
1978 – Newt ran for congress and was victorious.
1981-1988 – Newt divorces his first wife on the heels of an affair he had. Newt continues to be re-elected, and he did a lot of good during these years. He founded the Conservative Opportunity Society. He was successful at ousting congressmen who violated various ethical standards including sex scandals (Congressional Page sex scandal is one of note).
1989 – Newt is made Minority Whip.
1992 – Newt sells his Georgia home and moves to a new area of Georgia so he can continue to run for election, due to his former district being re-districted. While the argument is true that re-districting is a way to try to oust good congressmen, the argument can also be made that Newt is a believer that Congress is now his career path, and he works around the redistricting issue.
1994 – Newt comes up with the “Contract with America” which promises term limits, welfare reform, and a balanced budget. He makes good on welfare reform and the balanced budget. Term limits never happened.
1997 – The House votes to sanction Newt on all sorts of ethics violations. Although most turn out to be completely fabricated, one is pursued: claiming a tax-exempt status on a college course. A silly charge, I agree, but it sets into motion a leadership challenge by fellow REPUBLICAN congressmen. You may consider that these Republican congressional leaders also play the part of Macbeth, or the part of Lady Macbeth. They are all out for blood, full of their own ambitions, working to position themselves for their own advancement. Who are these players? Why, Dick Armey, Tom Delay, John Boehner, and Bill Paxon. All Republicans, and all out to make Newt resign. The coup backfired, but the infighting and rebellion within the ranks of the Republican party continues from this point forward.
1998 – Although he wins his election, Newt decides to not run again because of the House infighting and attacks against him from within his own ranks. He instead enjoys an affair with a 33 year old congressional aide. He does this while taking part in the House proceedings for the impeachment of Clinton over the Monica Lewinski scandal.
Of course, my desire is not to demonize Newt. This is only to look at his life through the prism of Macbeth. He is a man of great accomplishments,who struggles against moral failings like the rest of us. While in office he affected more positive reform for conservatism than most of his contemporaries. The moral of the story, however, is that power corrupts, and power that comes with being a state representative is realized (and further developed) over time. Living the life of American nobility for a 25 year career is something that will corrupt a person.
What is the lesson of Newt? The lesson is this: the problem we have in Washington is one that will never be remedied by a simple change in management. Replace the corruption of the Democrat party with a Republican majority, and you will in time see the corruption in that party too, just as we did in the 1990’s and this last decade.
So what is the remedy? The remedy is that we first acknowledge what our Founding Fathers identified:
Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects. Benjamin Franklin "Dangers of a Salaried Bureaucracy," 1787
The GOOOH plan seeks to have term limits be an inherent part of the election process for its candidates. One term in office, with re-election only possible by submitting and succeeding in the next selection process. It is a system that seeks to raise real citizen leadership, to serve for a limited time. It seeks to vet those candidates in advance of their election, and make them sign their oath to their positions on every issue, also in advance of their election. It seeks to hold them accountable to We the People in a manner that is nonexistent in the current system.
So the prophecy for power and wealth did not end well for Macbeth, and Newt’s career downfall left a bad mark on conservatism, in spite of Newt still continuing his career path as a FOX News contributor and peddling book bundles. Let me end this with a prophecy by Benjamin Franklin, an omen of greater import than that of the Macbeth witches:
… there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them. Hence, as all History informs us, there has been in every state and kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing and the governed, the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less. And this occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in dethroning of the princes or enslaving the people. Generally, indeed, the ruling power carries its point, and we see the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes, the greater the need the prince has of money to distribute among its partisans, and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure.
Benjamin Franklin "Dangers of a Salaried Bureaucracy," 1787
Our generation in this country, in this form of government, is presented with an ultimatum: choose to revolution to preserve constitutional standards, or choose to be enslaved by those who have corrupted those standards. GOOOH is the nonviolent revolution solution. Let's choose it and win.