Feds & Politics: Neutral or Neutered?

Friday - 11/9/2012, 2:00am EST

The election is over, the people have spoken and whether you are happy or sad, most of us are glad that those mostly awful, often misleading (both sides) political ads have finally gone away.

Those of us living in or near those battleground swing states (in the case of D.C. we have Virginia right across the river) are still recovering from the shock and awe of 24/7 ads assuring us that the other guy — the opponent of whoever bought the ad — is a dirty dog. That his sister was a known thespian in college, etc. Or that the opposition candidate secretly hates kittens. As always, the true winners were TV stations that raked in all that revenue.

Congressional elections are coming up (again) in two years. But they won't generate the national buzz of a presidential contest. That means that the Hatch Act — the 73-year-old protector or persecutor of federal and postal workers — will take another back seat until the 2016 campaign gets underway.

The Hatch Act was designed to protect career feds from arm- twisting by political bosses and colleagues. At work and at home. Many feds appreciate the protections of the law. Some use it as an excuse to duck political activities they are actually allowed to participate in. Others think it is antiquated and an assault on their rights as citizens. A pre-election column, " I'd Love To Help, But I'm Hatched," prompted some interesting comments and emails. Such as:

  • "I've always agreed that the workplace is not the spot for political activities. No matter who wins, they will be your commander in chief, and the position at least should be respected. I have never heard anyone talking about politics that have used the slightest hint of respect or even common manners. If I had to listen to that stuff at work as well as on the TV, radio, and everywhere else I've been for the last six months, I would stab myself with a pencil. Due to no supply budget, it would be a short, stubby pencil and would only wound me which would just add insult to injury." — Survivor

  • "I have to say, this is one election I didn't really make up my mind until I was in the voting booth. I was actually casting my vote for what I thought is the lesser of two evils. I was just trying to protect what I have for retirement. I will admit, it is the first time since I have been able to vote, I voted for a Democrat for President. I tried like hell to get a straight answer from anyone in the Romney camp to explain why he thinks feds make too much money and if the changes he wanted to input for paying feds would have been grandfathered for short-term feds. I just didn't hear the answer I needed to hear. Those comments from Mr. Romney scared me. The fact the President got re-elected doesn't necessarily mean all us feds are home free. I know there are changes on the horizon. It is when and what they might be when they eventually come that concern me. Have feds done their part ... as far as helping with budgetary cuts? Absolutely! The question now is how much are we worth to those we supported and voted for. Don't get me wrong, I think change has to come, but how fair will those changes be? Or will we be like the many innocents of the French Revolution with heads under the guillotine and elected officials having the rope in their hands?" — Tony

  • "You may or may not know that for a large part of the early 20th century, many professional Army officers (even those with commissions in the National Guard or Reservists on active duty) did not vote as a matter of principle. It was considered inappropriate for serving officers to indicate an opinion (by voting) on who should be their superior, the commander in chief. And most did not join organizations where membership could be construed as political in any manner. Although attitudes in the services have changed, this reserve with regard to the boss is still prevalent." — Rob In North Carolina

  • "I for one am glad the Hatch Act is alive and well. We have a couple of nutcases in our office. One extreme right, the other extreme left. Each one has from time to time sent coworkers e-mails from outsiders, dealing with both race and religion. Offensive and I hope illegal. Several of us are planning to contact the Merit Systems Protection Board. These guys should be nailed." Sick of Bigots