Calling on Politicians to Resign is Dumb and Wrong

It seems our society has evolved to the point where every day there is at least one shit-storm which shoots to the top of our news coverage. This is relatively new. During the dark ages, whole centuries went by where literally nothing of interest happened. Sure, there was the occasional plague which wiped out half of this country or that continent. But people barely noticed, and mostly went about their business trying to make ever-sharper tools out of rocks.

As I write this, we find ourselves in the middle of the current shit-storm involving Ted Cruz. It seems that the junior senator from the “Great State of Texas” (do TV pundits consider any states not to be great. I mean, North Dakota…really?) found that the current polar vortex that has driven temperatures in the Lone Star State down to below zero to be a tad baltic, or, as I imagine them saying it in Texas (where I used to live), “colder than a well-digger’s ass”, which I am lead to believe…well, we don’t have to get into it.

So to escape the brisk conditions, Ted and his family decamped to Cancun. Happily, it is warm and balmy there. Sadly, the people of Texas expect their US Senator to stay and suffer with them and work on trying to get power and water restored so they can stay alive, and some ditch-digger (they also have cold asses, but not nearly as cold as those who dig wells) doesn’t have to dig their grave just yet. Ted got caught. People are super-pissed. And numerous newspapers and politicians have now called on Ted Cruz to resign from the US Senate. My hypothesis today? This is really dumb and just plain wrong.

First, let me make it clear. I am no fan of Ted Cruz’s. I haven’t been for a long time. I long-ago allowed my membership in the Ted Cruz Fan Club to lapse and I’ve removed most of the Ted Cruz posters from my bedroom walls (and ceiling!). Further, I think what he did was odious. The people you represent expect you to be there with them when they are going through tough times, especially when those tough times were largely caused by the government’s bone-headed deregulation and failure to prepare for this eventuality. Further, Ted had repeatedly attacked other politicians for leaving during a crisis. I find Ted Cruz to be loathsome, and not in the cute and adorable sense that the word “loathsome” is often used.

No, my objections to calling on elected officials to resign transcend Ted, or Texas, or this incident. They are universal. Loyal readers of this Blog (hi mom!) know that I am no fan of Donald Trump. I won’t expound on that at length other than to say that if (not when!) I die, “Fascist, loofa-faced shit gibbon” will be etched on my tombstone as my one enduring contribution to humanity. I supported both Trump impeachments and am only upset that there weren’t more.

Given the choice between voting for Trump and a lion who was in the process of eating pancreas, give me my Kaaos 2024 sign right now! I’ve called on Trump to be impeached, removed from office, prosecuted, and sentenced to live out his life in the Great State of North Dakota. But I have never, ever called on him to resign.

The first reason I oppose calling on people to resign is that it is anti-democratic. Trump, Cruz, Hawley, etc, all won elections. I didn’t vote for them. I wasn’t happy about it. But they were elected. By calling on someone to resign, I am disregarding and, in effect, voiding the votes of all the people who supported them. Do the voters get no say? Are they totally irrelevant? Does their expressed will not count because the person they’ve chosen has done something to offend me? Everything Trump did offended me. I could have been calling on him to resign four, five, a million times a day. Yet Trump was almost re-elected.

My guess is that if there was an election in Texas, maybe not today, but in six months after tempers have cooled, Ted Cruz would be a strong favorite to be elected yet again. Does anyone think Josh Hawley is going to lose in Nebraska? We have a very detailed, complex and well-worn election process to choose our leaders. It is not my individual, or our collective place to disrespect and disregard that process because we’ve decided we’ve had enough of the person the voters have picked.

I also oppose demands for resignation for the same reason I oppose recall elections. There are no do-overs in politics. Officials are elected for two, four, six or ten year terms. They should generally be able to serve out those terms, even when they make mistakes, and even when they make people mad. I remember about 15 years ago when Grey Davis was governor of California. He was a bland, uninspiring leader. But he had committed no crime. Yet the people thought that Arnold Schwarznegger was more exciting, and certainly more ripped. So in the middle of Davis’ term, he was booted out and replaced by The Terminator.

But if officials can be replaced whenever they somehow fall out of favor, it makes it very difficult to lead. Leading involves doing things that are unpopular sometimes. All electeds have to face the voters and defend their actions. But it should be at the appointed end of their terms. Otherwise, we run the risk of encouraging a continuous cycle of election-recall-replacement. Every time someone from one party is elected, the other part will start working on the recall effort. Similarly, if every time an office-holder does something that rubs us the wrong way (which is inevitable), the demands for resignation will begin ringing throughout the body politic.

This leads me to the final, and perhaps most compelling reason to resist the temptation to call on people we don’t like to resign. You can demand that a politician resign all you want. BUT THEY’RE NOT GONNA DO IT! If there is one thing that calls for resignation clearly are, and that is impotent. Thousands of electeds are called on to resign every year. Almost none of them do. Millions called on Trump to resign. Did he? Today the Houston Chronicle and several other respected media outlets are sanctimoniously calling on Cruz to resign. Do you think he will? Ted doesn’t care that some liberal newspaper or Maggie from Port Arthur doesn’t want him to keep his job. He’s going to keep it anyway.

Since everybody knows that nobody is resigning because they are asked to, it is fair to conclude that calls for resignation are not serious political acts. They are instead just rank exercises in virtue-signalling. “Look how noble (or righteous, or woke, or caring, or courageous) I am! I called for douchey Ted to resign!”. Well good for you. If they gave out Nobel Prizes for fecklessness, there would be very stiff competition.

I’m not saying that there is no way to rid ourselves of corrupt politicians. In fact, there are some very effective ways to do just that. If some official has committed a crime, they can and should be prosecuted. There is a method of purging bad public servants built into every political body. Presidents and Governors can be impeached. State legislators and Congress People can be expelled. Local township commissioners can be similarly removed. But those acts require clear corruption, criminal activity, or “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”. They also require the votes of other elected officials who must themselves answer to the voters. You can’t remove someone simply because they took a stupid, uncaring vacation.

If you really don’t like the President, or Ted Cruz, or Nancy Pelosi, or Andrew Cuomo, don’t call for them to resign. It’s the wrong thing to do and nobody will care. Organize to defeat them in the next election. That is the method of removal that is the most effective and consistent with democracy, no matter what great state you live in.

Long-time state House and Senate member, author of PA’s Medical Marijuana law, also creator of “shit-gibbon!” Comedian, professor, father of 2 awesome children!