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The default position of American Politics is that of oligarchy and today’s example of this is Mrs Debbie Dingle, the United States Representative for Michigan’s 12th Congressional District.

In what is a peculiarly American, and an oligarchical electoral oddity, Debbie took over the seat from her husband John Dingell jun. in 2015.  John had served as Representative for the astonishing period of 59 (yes fifty-nine years) from 1955 through to 2015 when Debbie his second and much younger wife graciously allowed herself to be put forward to fill the old boy’s shoes.

John had himself taken over from his father John David Dingell Snr, who had also held the seat for 22 (twenty-two) years from way back in 1933 through to 1955 when John boy jun. got to have a go.

That means that as of today, this family has had a seat the same seat, on Capitol Hill for 84 years.  Just think about that.  Roosevelt was being elected when this family first took control of the seat.  It’s a thought isnt it?  Take all the time you need.

Is Michigan twinned with North Korea?

Of course all this poses, or should pose a string of pertinent questions.

What exactly did old man Dingell achieve in his five long decades?  There must be questions as to how entrenched and sclerotic matters become over a period of nearly sixty years.  Might a bit of real opposition have invigorated Michigan politics, or did it just mean same old pork barrel politics for the same old clique?

Part of the problem of course is that the oligarchy here, as all across America, have gerrymandered the seats so effectively they become little more than modern versions of medieval fiefdoms and rotten boroughs.  This blocks opposition, stifles new blood, new ideas and worst proper representation of the electorate.  One solution of course is redistricting, but that is never going to happen.

Dingell’s constituency is so solid Democrat that once you have the party ticket you are immovable, becoming a complete shoe in and all but impossible to dislodge.  The family had been in for EIGHTY years before Mrs Dingell took the ticket and given her youth they could easily manage to get to 100 not out.  Indeed if John Dingell’s son Christopher, who himself served on Michigan’s State Senate from 1987-2003, shows interest they could be there for ever and a day.

Not that the Dingells are exceptional.  Far from it.  When commentators do discuss “Dynasty” or Political families it is usually the likes of the Bushes, Clintons or Kennedys that crop up.  But lower down lie other families even more entrenched such as Frelinghuysen, Udall, Landrieus, Murkowski, Pryor, Paul, Robert and Levin to name just the more obvious.  Oligarchy runs down throughout the American electoral system 

It’s not simply built in with the bricks, it is the bricks themselves.

Is it not distasteful to see a family take a seat and engineer it into an almost fiefal entitlement?

Term limits I hear you cry!  Not that the Dingles are anyway exceptional when we still have people like Robert Byrd (1955-2010), John Coyners (1965-2017), Ralph Hall (1981-2017), Don Young (1973-2017), or even Orrin Hatch (1977-2015), who have served in Congress longer than some other members of Congress have been alive.

34 members of the House (7.8%) have served for 24 years or more.
12 members of the Senate (that would be 12%) have served for 24 years or more.

Perhaps if legislators paid more attention to these deficiencies in the system, and less to imaginary foreign disruptors the American electorate might get representative that they deserve.

Copyright David Macadam 2017

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