Politics & Policy

The John Conyers Abdication

Rep. John Conyers in a House Judiciary Committee hearing in 2008. (Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)
He leaves, dogged by sexual-abuse accusations, but his royal family will retain the seat.

On Tuesday, Representative John Conyers (D., Mich.) announced that he would “retire” from Congress, effectively immediately. Conyers, who has spent the last 53 years in office — Bonanza was the top-rated television show in America the year he joined Congress — didn’t exactly retire: he actually resigned in disgrace, thanks to allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. The most recent allegation: A woman says Conyers groped her in church. In church. He stepped down only because news broke that taxpayers had been footing the bill for his games of footsie.

But fear not: The city of Detroit shall not go without a Conyers. The Old Man appointed his son, 27-year-old John Conyers III, to run in his stead. Conyers III was a longtime defender of his father: “It’s very unfortunate to see him fight so long for so many people and to automatically have the allegations assumed to be true.” Unfortunately, a few years back, Conyers III also tweeted about his dad’s penchant for the ladies: “My dad is a f***ing player and reckless as hell! He just got at this doods wife super low-key.”

Yeah.

John will run against grand-nephew and state senator Ian Conyers in an internecine war that could end with John locking Ian up in the Tower of London and then having him assassinated, if history holds true to form.

Americans love to mock the British for their addiction to royalty. But the fact is that we have created our own version of royalty in our politics, right down to inheritance and droit du seigneur. Detroit is a kingdom; the Conyers family are its bosses. John himself has been in the political limelight for corruption before: He was probed by the House Ethics Committee after three staffers accused him of using them as personal servants and babysitters and forcing them to work on state and local campaigns. Naturally, the committee let him slide in 2006 with a pledge to treat his staff in accordance with the rules.

He won 85 percent of the vote that year.

The Conyers royal court has been granted similarly favorable treatment. The king’s queen, Monica, served on the Detroit City Council — before she was convicted of bribery for taking cash in exchange for voting on a $47 million waste contract. The king mysteriously reversed his opposition to that project; according to Judicial Watch, in 2009 “Conyers even wrote the federal government a letter supporting the plan and pushing for the permit transfers required for the hazardous waste injection well in the city of Romulus, Michigan. The letter, addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency, explained that ‘many things had changed’ in favor of the project since he stood in opposition to it.”

Americans used to see their representatives as just that: representatives. Now they see their politicians as protectors, lords and ladies of the fiefdom,

In 2010, Conyers won 77 percent of the vote.

It’s not just Detroit. Americans used to see their representatives as just that: representatives. Now they see their politicians as protectors, lords and ladies of the fiefdom: If you grant them office, they will ensure that you may plow your field in peace. Just make sure to toss them an extra portion of your harvest. Hence our willingness to elect bad men and women to high office: They are not we. They just protect us. Nobody expected King Henry VIII to avoid the ladies; his job was to protect the kingdom. Nobody expects their congressperson to avoid sin; his or her job is to bring home the occasional bacon and keep the foreign lords from the land.

This is what happens when we stop seeing ourselves as sovereign and begin seeing our elected officials as sovereign. We no longer see them as our representatives in the most literal sense: They do not represent us, our values, anything about us. They merely sit in their castles and deign to protect us occasionally. Who cares, therefore, if Roy Moore is an alleged child molester? He’s not me. He’s just the guy in power. And all we care about is how he uses power. If that comes along with a bit of food-court trolling, should we truly care? Who cares if Al Franken grabs women’s breasts as they sleep? Surely Henry II did worse, and he secured his holdings in France.

It’s obvious that we’ve stopped thinking of ourselves as citizens and begun to think of ourselves as subjects. So long as Americans are willing to accept men such as Conyers, hereditary districts, and corrupt and venal politicians, that self-perception will continue to materialize in reality.

READ MORE:

John Conyers & Nancy Pelosi are Disoriented and Strategically Oblivious

Conyers, Franken, Moore and the Psychological ‘Permission Slip’

John Conyers Is the Albatross that Democrats Deserve

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