Why does it seem that most elected officials don’t retire naturally? They run until they are forced resentfully from office. Some voters accuse the politicians of an egomaniacal power-grab while others believe these mature statesmen have the most to offer and must continue to serve. Whatever the perspective, most of us count ourselves as loyal. We love our friends, our team mascot and our national flag. In fact, studies show that once we settle on a beer brand we almost never change it. Even dogs are lauded for their faithfulness. Could politicians continue to campaign out of some sense of misplaced loyalty to those in their employ?
When a fresh-faced member of our U.S. Congress goes to D.C., they are first challenged with building a staff. In addition to hiring from the pool of professional bureaucrats lurking in the shadow of Capital Hill, they bring with them a handful of devoted kids from their district back home. Together they march to Washington, ready to make a difference. Then life happens. In the subsequent years, these “kids” grow up living in the beltway. They meet and marry in Virginia (not their home states). Their children are born residents of the Imperial City, not the small town from which their roots sprang. By the time a U.S. Senator, for example, has served a few terms, her close-knit staff is no longer representative of the folks, well, represented. Considering reelection, are those most proximate to the senator entirely self-interested? They say: you have more to do to serve our country. They mean: one more term and my kid will be out of school (“he is your Godson, senator”). They say: your state needs you. They imagine: what will I do without the job your office provides to me? Compared to personal interest, does the state always lose?