Media Musings: Throw the bums back in

Editor’s note: This is another in my series of monthly musings on the news, published on the Sunday following the last Saturday of each month, except when it’s not.


© 2014 Tom Pfeifer

Current as of June 28, 2014


Eagle clutching American flag with an I Voted sticker on it, perched on a shelf of American history booksA Seattle anesthesiologist had his license suspended because he sent nearly 250 sexually explicit texts during surgeries. He probably will run for public office.

In Maryland, you can’t run for office unless you have skeletons in your closet. On the ballot this month was a state House delegate who was convicted of driving a car and a boat while drunk; a county official accused of misspending, plagiarism, and assault; and a state senator who was censured by colleagues for using his office for private gain.

My favorite though is the state Senate candidate who is on probation for breaking election laws—and may have his probation revoked for running for office.

General Motors is recalling 29,000 Cruze model Chevys because of faulty airbags. But we don’t recall U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and his 434 fellow members of Congress because they are faulty airbags.

Oh sure, there are the exceptions. Rabid Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, then the House majority leader, was trounced from the right by an unknown Tea Partier. And most of the Maryland scoundrels lost their bids for election or re-election.

But on average, 90 percent of members of Congress who seek re-election win. Some hope the tide will turn this year. After all, 22 percent of Americans polled by Gallup in April believe members of Congress do not deserve to be reelected, the lowest percentage recorded in an election year—except for January when the number was 17 percent. But that’s Congress as a whole. When asked about their specific incumbent, 50 percent support their member of Congress’s reelection.

For comparison, in 1992, 29 percent of Americans believed members of Congress as a whole should be reelected. Eighty-eight percent of them were.

Why the disconnect? Scientists have found the answer, as scientists always do. It was found in the 1946 Three Stooges movie The Three Troubledoers, when Moe asks Larry and Curley, “Are we mice or men?” Larry and Curley’s answer: “Mice!” And so we are.

Using electric-shock therapy, researchers proved the theory of learned helplessness. First they enclosed a group of mice in a room with no chance of escape and lit them up. Then they opened a door and electrified the room again. While most of the mice said, “I’m out of here,” 20 percent endured the shock in a whimpering ball rather than take the escape. The mice acted as if nothing they could do would change their situation, and so they did nothing.

Voting for an incumbent under the banner, “Throw the bums out,” is learned helplessness. Possibly worse is not voting at all, which is the learned-helplessness course taken by more than 46 percent of the voting age population in the 2012 election.

What’s an electorate to do? We could follow Pope Francis’ lead and excommunicate the mafiosi. That would only knock out about 30 percent of the Congress, but that’s still a lot more than we do through elections.

Or we could send them in search of public restrooms in DC’s Metro system. They’re there, but they’re hidden. It took a Washington Post reporter 20 minutes to find a useable one at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station—with the station manager’s help. Members of Congress have perfected the art of investigating crap and getting lost in the process. If they’re stalled in the stalls they can do the country no harm. There are mirrors for reflected selfies but there’s no wi-fi by which to send them. And every day would be a travel day.

Or we can be anesthetized by sexually explicit selfies that no longer shock us and vote the bums back in. I’ll pick you up in my Chevy Cruze on the way to the polls.



“Three Stooges Quotes.” The Three Stooges Online Filmography. Accessed 28 June 2014.

Associated Press. “GM recalling more than 29,000 Cruzes to fix air bags.” The Washington Post. 26 June 2014.

Bever, Lindsey. “This might be a first: A Seattle doctor is suspended for sexting during surgery.” The Washington Post. 10 June 2014.

Fisher, Marc. “In Maryland, it’s electable scoundrels vs. unelectable rogues.” The Washington Post. 24 June 2014.

Jones, Jeffrey M. “Ahead of Midterms, Anti-Incumbent Sentiment Strong in U.S.” Gallup Politics. 14 May 2014.

Kim, Meeri. “Why are some depressed, others resilient? Scientists home in one part of the brain.” The Washington Post. 5 June 2014.

McDonald, Michael. “2012 General Election Turnout Rates.” George Mason University. Last updated 22 July 2013.

Pullella, Philip. “Pope Francis lambastes mobsters, says mafiosi ‘are excommunicated.’” The Washington Post. 21 June 2014.

St. Martin, Victoria. “On the hunt for the elusive Metro restroom.” The Washington Post. 7 June 2014.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


3 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the laughs!

    I can just hear you giving this as a speech.




  2. Posted by Karen Hibdon on June 30, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Right on the mark, so sad but true, Tom.

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. Posted by Rita Swanteson on July 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Funny, it would be funnier if it wasn’t the truth.



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