Agency theory is a way to explain the relationship between a principal and an agent. In a perfect world, the agent works in the principal’s best interest. In the real world, the agent works on behalf of the agent. Understanding agency theory in personal relationships, in the workplace, and in politics may help resolve issues created by unaligned goals or different levels of risk aversion. Finance students learn agency theory to help them understand the conflicts between the expectations of principals (stockholders) and the desires of agents (company executives).
Politics, if nothing else, is agency theory on steroids.
Pre- and post-election polls show the majority of US voters are tired of the divisiveness of politics, but Democrats seemed to use their campaigns to widen the divide. Democrat House and Senate candidates pushed investigations, impeachment, immigration, and sometimes health care. US voters, however, are more interested in health care (41 percent) than immigration (23 percent).
ABC News exit polling showed 75 percent of Democratic voters were interested in health care, but just 23 percent were concerned about immigration despite the hoopla surrounding opposition to a border wall and support for the migrant caravans. The economy was on the minds of Republican voters by a 2-1 margin, which was about the same spread as gun policy for Democratic voters. Regarding Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, 54 percent of Americans believe it is politically motivated. To no surprise, that breaks down to 82 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats.
And yet, the individuals the voters chose to be their agents in Washington seem hell-bent on proving the worst aspects of agency theory as Democratic candidates and party leaders, traumatized by the 2016 election, make plans to overturn the results by any means possible.
We are seeing a shift from the old idea that all politics is local to one where the only politics is impeachment of the president and the removal of Cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. What they could not accomplish two years ago—keeping Trump out of the White House—they want to do now by removing him from office before the end of his term.
Party leaders avoided the word impeachment in public before the elections. In May, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi danced the political two-step when she discouraged the use of the word while giving members her approval to discuss it in their districts. Pelosi says impeachment is not a priority, but she has not taken it off the table, because her members like Al Green of Texas and Maxine Waters of California are singing and dancing on the table.
Green forced an impeachment floor vote last December that 58 Democrats supported. A second vote in January garnered 66 votes. Waters claims the impeachment movement is not a witch hunt or fake news, but one based on real charges of criminal behavior that will lead to articles of impeachment.
Democrats won enough seats to regain control of the House where articles of impeachment originate. They lost seats in the Senate where they need 67 votes to remove a president from office.
So, what is the big deal with this investigation and impeachment rhetoric? The big deal is the real probability of two years of political division and hate to make the last two years look like a love fest. And it will begin in January with a flurry of subpoenas and public hearings Democrats have promised to unleash in their efforts to hamstring the Trump administration. The Kavanaugh confirmation was an example of what awaits senior administration officials and future nominees who will face allegations and pillories disguised as hearings designed to erode public confidence in their government.
Younger voters may not have taken civics classes in high school, but if they had, they would know that “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” are the criteria for a presidential impeachment. Ken Starr is not a popular guy among Democrats after heading the investigation that led to Clinton’s impeachment. Starr knows a thing or two about this topic because he has seen a thing or two, and he says allegations against Trump are not even close to impeachment material.
Logical thinking and the rule of law have taken the last train for the coast. It is looking more and more like the American people will be the ones railroaded by agency theory at its worst, because powerful people do not have the patience to work harder during the next two years to accomplish their goal the way the nation’s founders intended.