The resignation of Aaron Schock (“R”-Ill.) from Congress should hardly come as shocking (sorry) to anyone following the troubled legislator’s exploits over the past few months and perhaps his entire congressional career. There are several disappointing angles to this story, representing pretty much everything wrong with American politics in 2015. Where to begin…
First, a little background. Aaron Schock, 33, was born in Minnesota but moved with his family to Illinois when he was in fourth grade. Schock graduated from high school in 2000 and ran for a seat on his local school board shortly thereafter. His victory made him the youngest person serving on a school board in Illinois. At 23 he became the youngest school board president in Illinois history. A few months later he resigned from the school board to focus on his new gig: youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly in state history. Four years later he was our youngest-serving congressman.
Schock was a rising star in the GOP. (Know that such a phrase should never be said in earnest.) He was a fresh face to supplant those, you know, old curmudgeons associated with conservatism the past 250 years. As an added bonus he was young and good-looking and made government, you know, cool. Uh oh.
Exactly why it took us six years to figure out Aaron Schock is nothing more than your average high school student body president suddenly given Charlie Sheen’s brain and the keys to Dad’s Bentley I will never know. Somehow it was only recently that we began tallying up the “private flights, new cars, Super Bowl tickets, cufflinks, massages, gold equipment?, and cigars charged to his government expense account. Oh, and the $100,000 makeover to his congressional office… wait for it… to make it look like the set of Downton Abbey. I swear I am not making this up.
Schock has been more and more flagrant about his baller lifestyle the past few months, described by others as everything from plain old narcissism to outright meglomania. Yup, that’s the Facebook generation for ya. And sadly, the attitude of every politician I’ve ever met. This is how every politician acts. It’s just that Schock is young enough and good-looking enough to make it look cool rather than pathetic.
The problem is that every politician thinks the world owes them a lifestyle. I’m awesome, so the world should pay me. It’s the only profession I know in which there really aren’t any services to render, only what you as the legislator choose to dispense. In Schock’s case, the lead up to this was particularly egregious. This is a man who barely worked his entirely life; his existence has been a paid seat on one government body to the next. Sadly, this is how I used to view the business of government as well. If you’re awesome, someone will just pay you to be awesome, and the awesomer you are, the more you’ll move up the ranks. This is a pathetic worldview I eventually dismissed but remains clung to, disturbingly, by most of those swelling government ranks.
Schock’s a crook, and I’m glad to see him go. He gave millennials and conservatives a bad name, and gave John Q. Public the bill in so doing. As I often find myself saying, with Republicans like these…
It’s painful to see those so enamored of government and the lifestyle it provides running for public office. It’s even more painful to realize that these are the only people doing so. Who’s running for office to become poor? And from the president on down (when Schock steps down officially Obama will be back to miscreant number one on this front), the phenomenon is a disease upon the nation at large.
Unfortunately, those with the power to cure it are its greatest promoters.