Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Renzi's woes a cause for amusement, not alarm

The member of the House of Representatives from my district is in deep trouble. On March 4, Rick Renzi pleaded "not guilty" on charges of wire fraud, insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, extortion and money laundering. He's only been in office since 2002, so that's fast work, even by congressional standards. Usually it takes a couple of decades of favors and influence peddling before a politico can line up that impressive an indictment.

Local newspapers and good-government types are bemoaning the district's "lack of representation" in Congress resulting from Renzi's fall from whatever grace a politician can ever have. Renzi stepped down from his committee appointments after the FBI raided his insurance business last year. A couple of land swaps partially engineered by Renzi are stalled by the taint of his involvement. The scandal-dogged congressman falls dead last in Congress.org's power rankings of federal lawmakers.

And really, I think the whole mess is pretty damned funny.

The reason I'm not troubled is that Rick Renzi never "represented" me in Congress. Oh sure, I live in CD1, the district from which he's been elected, but I don't agree with Renzi on many important issues. He's favored the bloody and pointless war in Iraq, opposed permitting stem cell research, he's a drug warrior and he favors the Patriot Act. On the other hand, he's moderate on immigration (which is a pleasure in these nativist times) and supports a quasi-free-market approach to health care, but basically he's been a butt boy for George W. Bush.

The fact that he's from the same geographically defined political jurisdiction as me is irrelevant. He can't represent me because we don't share the same beliefs.

This isn't a matter of sour grapes over the losses suffered by his Democrat opponents; they never could have represented me either. The three of them were, by and large, standard-issue "progressives" who favor government and group rights over individual liberty (Ellen Simon, the last opponent, has been portrayed as a civil libertarian, but she's made her legal bones pursuing high-profile "discrimination" cases of the sort that turn the workplace into a minefield).

To the extent that I'm represented in Congress at all, it's by people with whom I share significant common values, like libertarian-Republican Ron Paul, of Texas.

But really, the idea of representation is a foolish one. What sort of representation can one person provide for tens of thousands of ideologically diverse constituents with disparate priorities and preferences? At best, a politician can champion the temporary majority or (more likely) plurality view on any given issue, leaving opposing views without a voice in the halls of Congress. Opinions shift, though, and even the most craven politicians find it difficult to make 180-degree policy turns when poll results drift with the winds. Elections end up being little more than popularity contests won by some fortunate fool who enjoyed a surge of warm and fuzzy feelings on the right day and will therefore be able to put forward his or her views in the legislature to the exclusion of the opinions of large parts of the population.

I said that's at best, but maybe that's not true. Maybe it's better to have a thorough-going crook like Rick Renzi who reveals the system for the sad joke that it is and spends more of his time in lining his own pockets than in trying to inflict on us the sort of well-intentioned legislation true-believing authoritarians use to strip life of its joy.

Representation, that is to say, is nonsense.

So Renzi's self-inflicted difficulties leave me neither more nor less represented in Congress than I ever have been. They do, however, provide very enjoyable theater.

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Blogger Eric Dondero said...

Hey Jerome, good to see you Bloggin'. We met in Chicago at the Americans for Limited Government conference a couple years back.

You'll have reason to cheer beyond Ron Paul this year. Looks like Tom McClintock may be a Congressman from California. He's just as good as Jeff Flake.

March 18, 2008 6:57 PM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...


I hope you're right about McClintock. It would be encouraging to see the Republicans take even a few tentative steps back toward their limited government roots.

March 19, 2008 8:53 AM  
Anonymous businescares said...

The present government waste money in Iraq wars.If we spend these money in Health care insurance plans and employment fields.Then common people get benefited from these plans. The present Democratic party focus on this fields only.This gives advantage to this compared to present government.

March 19, 2008 11:54 PM  
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^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 19, 2009 12:11 AM  

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