Wednesday, April 05, 2006

DeLay's Resignation Signals a Healthier Party

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), the former House Majority Leader decided to call it quits. Good for the Republicans, and good for him. Because while he has been indicted by Ronnie Earle in what is nothing more than a political witch hunt, he has most ominously had two staffers caught up in a criminal investigation to which one copped a plea and agreed to help in the investigation. One can only assume that some of it is pointing to DeLay.

The good for DeLay is that this is his opportunity to focus his attack on the charges against him, and to exonerate himself--as opposed to acquitting himself--so that he can restore credibility to himself. It also sends a message that DeLay is more concerned about his reputation than his hold on power. And if he is able to turn the tables on his accusers, he will be of even more value to the party than he was before, as a wrongly accused man who is the victim of a political hit and who clears his name emerges as a hero.

But one who is dirty is a political liability to the rest of his brethren until he is removed. And as we learned in 1994, it is a much worse thing for politicians when voters have to do the removing.

After the check bouncing scandal and various other disgraceful revelations about the House of Representatives, a general perception that Democrats had been abusing the privileges that come with leadership, and that they could no longer be trusted to lead, voters had had enough and expurgated Democrats from the Congress. Certain Democrats chose not to run again, but others put up the fight and lost. And those who didn't returned in January to a Capitol where their relevance was much less than it had been only a few months before.

And if Tom DeLay was involved in illegal activity, he did the responsible thing by bowing out, as the Congress is not a place for people who have problems respecting the law.

But most importantly, a party that can police itself can retain public trust. There will always be renegades. But when they can be identified and removed, regardless of the power and influence they wield and the apparent cash benefits they can bring to the party, it increases the credibility of the rest of the party.

We'll see how this plays out, but it was a good move for all, depriving the Democrats of the opportunity to use the issue.

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