Well-known is the predicament in which President Obama finds himself: a sluggish economic recovery, an agonizing inability to proclaim a plan for the long-term well-being of America, and starkly divided opinion about his leadership creep upon his every move.  Congress also faces a struggle of vast proportions, though this monster is one borne out of decades of virulent ethical failures on the part of our very own representatives.  Congress, it seems, is not quite the vaunted institution which once saw honorable statesmen opine about the founders and the dangers of encroaching government.  Congressional officials—necessarily from both the Democratic and Republican parties—have amassed despicable records of intransigence to a common course of ethics vital to the preservation of a healthy democracy.

No longer are Congressmen servants of the public, but leeches in the public sphere.  Most horrifying is that this game is only in its initial stage, and will accelerate into something surely more dangerous if voters fail to heed the warning signs.

The rampant criticism directed at Mitt Romney over the past few weeks for his wealth is most certainly misplaced.  Yes, he is a millionaire many times over.  And yes, he pays his taxes; he also follows the law. What voters need to direct their attention toward is the base behavior of our representatives—the ones which have become self-satisfied while sidestepping the very trust which voters placed in them.

For example, we have the esteemed doyenne of the Democratic Party, Nanci Pelosi (D-CA), who seems to have forgotten or faithfully ignored why the people elected her in the first place.  Following the revelation to the public that Pelosi had abused the services of the military for her personal purpose; she shamelessly replaced first class flights with United States Air Force aircraft stocked with chocolate-covered strawberries especially for her birthday for her and her family.  Pelosi should surely have stopped, but alas, as an esteemed representative, she reserved the right to continue this embarrassing act, logging 43 flights on Air Force aircraft after being outed for her initial misuse of military resources.

The Republican party too has its share of corrupt sleazeballs. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) has been an utter embarrassment to the GOP.  Peter Schweizer, in his explosive new book, Throw Them All Out, writes about Bachus’s service as the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.  Bachus traded short-term stock options in 2008 after being privy to a private briefing exclusively for congressional leaders.  Led by Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the meeting revolved around the impending meltdown of the global economy.

Following this meeting, it appears, Bachus used his newly gained information to further his self-interest, making eerily suspicious trades and seemingly setting his constituents’ interests aside.

Judicial Watch had this to say Bachus’s actions:

“Congressman Bachus’s aggressive trading practices, in which he was able to benefit by betting on falling stock prices, reportedly earned him substantial profits from some of the 40 trades placed during the months of July through November 2008, many of the trades occurring after the September meeting.”

This is not a man suited for public office. While Americans were suffering from the financial crisis, Bachus profited from this disaster, using information unavailable to most of America.

Both Pelosi and Bachus’s actions are but two of countless contemptible shows put on by our representatives. These ethical blunts reek of utter contempt for upholding the honor that once existed with a public office.

Conservatism proscribes that we—humans, yes endowed with the gift of life, but also afflicted by the opportunity to err—practice prudence, but that statesmen, especially, adhere to ethical principles representative of the highest order. Conservatism also asks of us the courage to demand restraints upon power and human passions.

We must remember these teachings as we move toward the 2012 elections. Our job is not merely to elect conservatives or Republicans to office—Congressional or presidential.  It is to elect those representatives who will best represent our beliefs but also adhere to a code of ethical behavior demanded by us.  Arguably as important is our responsibility to dethrone the corrupt leeches from both parties. That is something conservatism—a philosophy of measured behavior—first demands of us.

Raj Kannappan :: Cornell University :: Ithaca, New York :: @RajKannappan