Impotence Corrupts

Martin Luther King Jr. leads the 1963 March On Washington, 8-28-63
AP (file)
This commentary was written by's Dick Meyer.

The saying goes that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I am beginning to think that in politics lately, impotence corrupts even more.

That is the best way I can explain the blatantly corrupt stunt just pulled by Republicans in the Senate. They blocked a vote on whether to allow debate on a bill to give the District of Columbia a vote in the House. No Senators, just one measly House vote.

Senate Republicans have propagated a lot of nonsense about why it would be unconstitutional to allow the District a vote. They don't want to do it because they don't want another Democrat in the House and because they live in terror that someday there could be two Senators from the District of Columbia: Oh, the Horror! Taxation with representation!

This is the corruption of impotence. The bill the Senate will not debate would also give a new House seat to Republican Utah. The balance of power would not be altered. But Utah sometimes elects Democrats and the District is seen as Democratic in perpetuity.

The cowardice of the Senate GOP is born of impotence, not power. Their president has squandered the power he had when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. A confident party, a powerful party, has the strength and principle to do the obvious right thing. That is not the Republican Party today.

The political consequences for Republicans of giving D.C. the vote are minute. But the party's leadership today is blinkered by political minutia. That is the extent of the vision of party honchos like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A few days before the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, former Republican Majority Leader wrote in The Washington Post, "Republican lawmakers forgot the party's principles, became enamored with power and position, and began putting politics over policy. Now, the Democrats are reaping the rewards of our neglect -- and we have no one to blame but ourselves."

Armey was right on. But it appears now that impotence corrupts even more than power.

When they controlled Congress, Republicans loved to do to the District what they said the federal government should never do: tinker and meddle in local affairs. They tried to enforce education schemes, change the District's gun laws and dictate on budget issues.

They have been just as petty with the citizens' most basic civil right.

The Republican Party, current members seem to have forgotten, was the party of Abraham Lincoln. The Republican record in enacting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was respectable. Giving the District representation is a most basic voting rights issue.

Five residents of Washington, D.C. have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They died for a country that wouldn't allow them to have a vote in the Congress that authorized those wars, wars meant to bring democracy to foreign countries, supposedly.

The most resent casualty was Army Captain Darrel Lewis, killed in Afghanistan on June 23. His parents, Hannah and Stanley Lewis, have the flag that draped their son's casket, but they don't have a vote in Congress.

It is becoming harder and harder to understand what Republicans in government do stand for.

Their deficits show they don't believe in fiscal restraint. Their No Child Left Behind program and expansion of Medicare into prescription drugs show they don't believe in small government. Their incessant tinkering with the tax code to benefit specific market sectors shows they don't believe in markets. Their policies on the environment and medical research show they don't believe in science.

And they say power corrupts.

My dad always told me to be more wary of the mean looking little guy than the big, strong guy. I guess he was right.

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By Dick Meyer