As a first-time political candidate, taking on a powerful incumbent, I have spent the past month since filing my candidacy papers talking to as many Texans as I could get to listen to me.
Obviously, I want their votes. But I also wanted to make sure we were on the same wavelength when it came to what we really want in Washington. What drove me to jump head-first into the Texas U.S. Senate race was a growing sense that politics aren’t just divided at the national level; they’re certifiably dysfunctional. Much of this is the result of a failure of leadership, in the House and Senate as well as the administration.
And so far, almost all the people I have talked to are in complete agreement. Granted, I talk to more Republicans, since that’s my party and the primary is my first concern. But I have also talked with Democrats and Independents, and they feel this way too.
The problem, in my view, is a mix of political careerism, the harmful influence of big money in campaigns, and a fear of standing on principle. For most of the people in Washington, politics is their career. And because they want to keep their career alive, they focus on raising money from the minute they arrive in the capital. Not every Senator and Representative is this way, but most of them are, and it causes them to forget about the folks back home.
This is not how the framers of the Constitution imagined things. They were probably too naive, but they figured that farmers and furniture makers and silversmiths would run for office, serve a term or two, and then leave government and go back to their real work. Had they foreseen the rise of career politicians, they would have certainly written term limits into the Constitution, and we would all be better off politically now.
Remember, our founding fathers originally had senators being appointed by each state legislature. The 17th Amendment changed that, and has been a major reason for this problem.
That’s why in my campaign, in addition to emphasizing leadership, I am taking a vow that if I am fortunate enough to be elected to the U.S. Senate, at most I would serve two terms. That’s my own term limit amendment. And I am pledging that if elected, when it came time for a second term campaign, I would not accept a single donation until 18 months before the general election. That would give me four a half years to make working for Texans, not pursuing campaign donations, my only priority.
This is the kind of pledge that we as voters should demand from all our candidates. We all complain about the influence of money in politics and how our Senators and Representatives contract “Washingtonitis” as soon as they’re elected. So it’s up to us to not only demand better from the people running to represent us, but to enforce it, at every election opportunity.
Ken Cope of Midlothian is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senator. His website is www.CopeTexas.com, and he is on Facebook and on Twitter at @CopeTexas.