The Price of Power
I have long wondered why politicians cling so tenaciously to their offices. Is it the money? Is it ego? Is it the perks and benefits they receive from the government and the innumerable lobbyists that court them? Is it the power, prestige and fame? Is it the sense of privilege and entitlement? Is it the possibility that a high office will position them for a lucrative career after politics? Is it devotion to a political party or a political ideology? Is it a belief in civic responsibility and patriotic duty? Maybe it’s a little bit of everything, but no one can doubt that getting reelected is of great importance to almost all of them.
On rare occasions events occur which bring into the sharpest possible focus what politicians will do, what they will say and how far they will go to stay in office.
Everyone knew long ahead of time that the Kavanaugh confirmation would be brutally contentious for many reasons and would come down to just a few undecided Senators: Susan Collins, the self-described moderate Republican of Maine; Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona; Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia; and, Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota. All of these Senators, except Flake, face reelection and are in very close races. In the end, all but Heitkamp voted in a way that enhanced their chance of reelection or, in Flake’s case, a chance of keeping his future political career alive in his deeply red state. Heitkamp bit the bullet and voted against Kavanaugh even though it is obvious it will hurt her in her home state, which voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
There may not be a greater crucible than a Supreme Court confirmation in which to test a politician’s mettle. The choice for these Senators was to vote for confirmation of a lifetime appointee to the nation’s highest court and thereby give themselves the best possible chance of being reelected, or vote against confirmation and hurt or destroy their chances of reelection. Another way to put the question might be whether a Senator, who serves a 6 year term, is more or less consequential than a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, who serves a lifetime? I feel certain the Senators who voted for confirmation will say they voted for what they thought was right even though their votes happened to coincide with their own best interests, but no matter how you see the Kavanaugh confirmation, you have to admire and respect Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
A famous athlete who took a controversial stand in the past that cost him dearly was asked recently why he did it. He said it was because his father had told him: “When you could, you wouldn’t. Now you want to, but you can’t.” Senator Heitkamp didn’t miss her chance.