If Rep. Scott DesJarlais could be summed up in one word, it would be unremarkable. Trained as a physician, the Iowa native was elected as Tennessee’s representative from the Fourth Congressional District in 2010. In the intervening years, he has been the subject of sex, drug, spousal abuse and abortion allegations, all to the apparent indifference of his flag-waving, family values, law-and-order, anti-choice electorate.
DesJarlais keeps a lower profile on social media than most of his peers. Like many Republicans, he vaguely blames Biden Administration “policies” and the Green New Deal for inflation. Consistent with the GOP congressional approach, he fails to mention what he, as an astute and erudite lawmaker, would do to fix those policies, or that the Green New Deal isn’t some insidious Biden scheme to put roughnecks and coal miners out of work overnight, but rather, is a long-term global initiative to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, to create lucrative new job markets, and ultimately, to have a positive impact on climate change.
The Center for Effective Lawmaking ranks DesJarlais just south of the 19th percentile among Republican lawmakers. The parents of a child who graduated from high school 81st in a class of 100 would understandably be delighted that their child graduated at all but would likely dodge any discussion about academic ranking. Hopefully DesJarlais did somewhat better as a medical student.
DesJarlais’ voting record is as expected; he is pro-gun, anti-choice, shows no support for the POC, LGBTQIA or immigrant communities but solid support for big business. His campaign finances are similarly ho-hum. His most recent Federal Election Commission filings show a relatively meager war chest of a little over $266,000. There are a few meals at upscale clubs and restaurants in the Washington, DC area among his expenses, but if these charges are improper, DesJarlais has apparently gambled and won that the FEC wouldn’t think it worthwhile to burn hundreds of personnel hours and tens of thousands of dollars investigating such relatively minor transgressions.
Again, like many Republicans, DesJarlais tries to excoriate the Biden Administration by claiming that they have done average working Americans dirty, so let’s put it in the perspective of average working Americans. Congress was in session for 160 of 247 business days, excluding weekends and public holidays, in 2021. In Tennessee, where according to the U.S. Census Bureau the median household income is around $55,000, there are many people who would tremendously enjoy having DesJarlais’ annual salary of $174,000 for part-time work, especially if they had to do nothing more than show up and didn’t need to worry about being shown the door over moral or ethical violations.
The term “rank and file Congressman” is often used to describe players like DesJarlais, and true enough, not everyone can be a star. But is it excessive to ask our elected representatives to do more than collect a paycheck and echo the party line? Is it too much to ask our members of Congress to actively work to the benefit of all of their constituents? Businesses cannot survive, let alone thrive, with uninspired, unmotivated staff, and the effects of such are abundantly clear in government.