In a post yesterday, I argued that North State congressman Doug LaMalfa has effectively given up the use of his brain by joining other GOP colleagues in signing a pledge that commits him to voting down “any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue”. LaMalfa signed a similar pledge when serving in Sacramento, pledging never to vote for a tax increase.
I was perhaps a bit clumsy in my wording, and some people construed the post as a direct attack on LaMalfa’s intelligence. I don’t know whether LaMalfa is particularly intelligent or not. His public utterances suggest that he is not, but in a day and age when the Republican Party makes a virtue of the outward stupidity and ignorance of its leadership, it can be difficult to say what’s real and what’s an act (think of their attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren for her teaching and research at Harvard, their bizarre fixation with elites as defined by education—as opposed to making lots of money at the expense of other people, or their attempts to degrade institutions of higher education).
One commentator suggests that “LaMalfa’s actions have less to do with lack of intellect than from a deliberate and malicious decision to align himself with the ever-increasing money and power in the hands of major corporate polluters like Koch Industries, to the great detriment of the country and the planet”.
This was well put. Indeed, my point was that to all appearances, LaMalfa has effectively rented out use of his considerable frame and leased his brain to a group of corporate handlers by signing away the discretion which is the hall-mark of legislative representation.
One wonders whether there is a secret listserv where members of Congress advertise the use of their office and their brains. Sadly, we can only speculate about what LaMalfa’s ad might look like:
“Large, barely-used, practically as good as new. Not prone to rocking the boat”.
“Pre-owned, but not so you’d notice. To the highest bidder, though polluters preferred”.
“Safe Republican seat. Unlikely to be challenged. Large, spacious, plenty of room for propaganda and deception”.
There is an extraordinary arrogance in the obsession of Republican politicians for their pledge-taking and oath-swearing mode of governance. In refusing to consider conditions, in declining to regard the interests of their constituents, and in closing their ears to the arguments, pledge-takers like LaMalfa are sending the message that they know the answer before they’ve even heard the question. And that answer is always a resounding “No!”, with consistently detrimental effects on their constituents.
If this is how LaMalfa and his colleagues believe that government should work, why do we even bother with elected representatives? If they’re going to refuse to do their jobs—to think, to debate, to evaluate changes in and threats to our economy and our society—why don’t we just sign over our democracy to corporate rule?
Because through its Citizens United ruling—that Corporations are people and that money is free speech—the Supreme Court has already begun that process. Because GOP subservience to energy, financial, agricultural, and weapons industries has already permitted representatives of those industries to act as thought-police in the party. And because in California, Republicans implemented such a system through years of misrule when they used Prop 13’s undemocratic supermajority requirements (and Prop 13 was financed by big real estate interests) to inflict damage on the state even when they only constituted 35% of our elected representatives.
I hope that we refuse to accept the implications of such a seismic shift in our republic. When we consider what it means that people like LaMalfa sell themselves to the likes of the Koch Empire, we should remember Elizabeth Warren’s passionate rejoinder last year to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s claim that “corporations are people”.
“No Governor Romney”, Warren responded, “corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance, they live, they love, and they die. And that matters. We don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people”.
It certainly should matter, and if LaMalfa’s constituents think it matters, they should call him to task for signing a pledge and swearing an oath that ties his hands and the fortunes of his constituents to a set of interests which work actively to subvert our democracy, ransack our economy, and exploit our public for private gain.