Ducks are generally interesting and entertaining. They are considered a popular sport in some circles and a dining delicacy in others. We have the advantage in firepower and culinary creativity, so how can a duck be potentially dangerous, especially a lame one? Why do we celebrate February 6 as Lame Duck Day?
Ask yourself this: Would you invest with a stockbroker who can’t pay off his or her debts? Would you do business with a company that repeatedly files for bankruptcy? Eighteenth Century London said no.
In the late 1700s, the lame duck moniker singled out bad players on London’s newly minted stock exchange. Previously, it applied to waterfowl that limped along in peril from hungry predators.
A quick flight from then to 1933 lands us at the origin of Lame Duck Day. Congress decided that 13 months was too long for an elected official to hold office after being voted out. They drew up an amendment that covered the scenario. It also applied to those who chose not to run again or were term-limited.
Yes, the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is better known as the Lame Duck Amendment. Thanks to its ratification, members of our government’s legislative branch and our POTUS have a 2-month grace period before they are expected to quietly leave the premises.
The thinking behind this obscure but profound amendment is simple. When a politician stops worrying about constituents, he or she doesn’t always make selfless decisions. The Lame Duck Amendment was meant to promote responsibility as well as a peaceful transition of power.
The last 80 years of our nation’s history have sorely tested both concepts. The transition of power has seemed especially fragile at times. Still, we prevail as a democracy despite those we put in office. Lame Duck Day marks slowing down our potentially dangerous ducks. And that is certainly worth celebrating.