Obenski column: Republic still has its ruling class

It’s a new year, but some things never change. We are still a republic, but there is definitely a ruling class. The same names turn up generation after generation in positions of power, elected or otherwise. While they do have to get elected to certain positions, their nomination can be assured if they have the right connections.

There are no hereditary seats in America; there seem to be hereditary nominations. Being named Brown in California, Ohio or Kentucky is a good start. One year the candidates for Governor of Kentucky were both John Brown distinguished on the ballot only by their middle initial K or Y. In any case being the son of helps as do certain ethnicities like being Irish in Massachusetts. WASP in the South.


Some names are magic because they call to mind a hero from the past. Kennedy comes to mind. We have had father and son presidents, at least not sequentially: Adams, Bush; a grandfather and grandson, Harrisons; cousins, Roosevelts and almost husband and wife.

There is talk of relatives of presidents as presidential material. Many senators look in the mirror and see a future president. This seems strange, because the jobs are vastly different. President is an executive job, to deal with the here and now, see that the laws be faithfully executed, manage the budget and command the armed forces. Senators along with representatives (Congressmen) deal with creating laws that determine policy — the consequences of which last for generations.

Some dynasties are not so obvious. Many of the sleazy background players from the McCarthy hearings and Nixon administration turned up in the W. Bush Whitehouse and inside the Trump campaign.

One of the annoying tactics of politics, like on-stage magic, is distraction. Look, over there, a submarine! Voila, the elephant in the room has disappeared from the mirror, leaving smoke.

Let’s assume for the moment that the current president is everything we could want in a leader. Many will disagree, but bear with me. The question that comes to mind is, do we want to set a precedent that future presidents can do as they damn well please with no consequences? Do we want to establish a monarchy, possibly a dynasty where the leader can do no wrong, his every whim is the law?

If you think such a leader will give you everything you want, you must remember he can also take away everything you have or even hope to have. The history of unchecked leaders from Henry VIII to Xi Jinping has many tales of individuals, families or entire ethnic groups stripped of everything from their property to their lives at the whim of an autocrat.

Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. A political party’s willingness to excuse even the most arrogant behavior by any member calls for a question.

If I ask supporters, “Is there anything the current president could do that you would not tolerate?” The answer I get is often nope!

Alternately I get a what-about something vaguely associated with a Clinton. This recalls Reagan’s 11th commandment, “Thou shall not speak ill of another party member.” (or was it Mao?) It’s like when you ask a member of a profession about another member if they can’t say something positive, they tell you about their association’s code of ethics.

“There is no distinctly American criminal class — except Congress.” – Mark Twain.

Senators must ask themselves, If I excuse the unethical behavior in the articles of impeachment how will this reflect on not only my future, but the future of the party, the future of the country? Will the people ever again trust us to protect and defend the Constitution?


We are engaged in a great political war, testing whether this nation, or any nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, can long endure if any individual is above the law.

Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a biweekly column for West Hawaii Today. Send feedback to obenskik@gmail.com