At the most recent count, 55 members of Congress have thrown in the towel, saying they have had enough and will not run for re-election. The retirements of 38 Republicans and 17 Democrats approaches the largest number since the World War II era; it was in 1992 that 65 elected officials called it quits. Political pundits believe that more retirements are coming, and that this year will break the 1992 record.
Republican retirements are especially noteworthy since committee chairs and other prominent leaders are walking away from positions of responsibility and influence.
Part of me recognizes that this is a difficult time to be a Republican member of Congress. The only major “accomplishment” since the last election has been a Tax Plan that adds at least $1.5 TRILLION dollars to the national debt. That’s over $7,000 of debt for every U.S. wage earner. Our children and grandchildren will spend their lifetimes paying the cost of providing this windfall to the wealthy and to corporations. But even more difficult than the lack of meaningful progress must be the constant requirement to stand up and support the recklessness and divisiveness of Mr. Trump. People who should know better—indeed, people who DO know better—continue to blindly obey their party leaders, supporting Mr. Trump’s falsehoods, holding him up as a role model, and denigrating the motives of devoted public servants, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other important agencies.
Retirement can be heartening when it frees elected leaders to speak their minds truthfully and take even stronger stands for the American people. The ethical statements of Sen. Jeff Flake and Sen. Bob Corker come to mind as examples. I wish more elected officials would find the courage to stand up and speak out for what they know is true and right.
But the good news is that in nine months, a whole bunch of new Congressmen and Congresswomen are going to be elected. Given the retirements mentioned, and given the fact that many current members of Congress will lose their re-election bids, it is certainly possible that in January 2019 we could see 100 or more newly elected members of Congress. Put another way, it is likely that after voters make their voices heard at the polls this November, around one in every five members of Congress will be a NEW member of Congress.
I am frequently asked, “If you get elected, how do we know you won’t be just like everyone else?” There are many personal reasons why I feel comfortable that I am a different type of candidate who won’t be prone to the pressures of conformity in Washington; I will talk about these reasons more as the campaign progresses. But let’s recognize that it will be easier to be a non-conformist if there are scores of other new non-conformists in Congress. This is a really important election in 2018.
And there is one way I can tell you for sure that I will be different. I will not be a career politician. I believe in term limits and I will promise to serve no more than 5 terms in Congress. This is the way the founding father’s designed our government; a government led by citizen legislators who, rather than blindly following the dictates of party leaders, focus instead on what is best for their constituents. Leaders should do their jobs for a few years and then return to their homes and communities.
I appreciate the support so many East Tennesseans have given me in our shared effort to promote Responsible Change by changing the way things are done in Congress. Thanks for your confidence and thanks for your future vote.