How does Congress get anything done when each of the 535 members seems to think it is all about them? There is enough blame to encompass both Democrats and Republicans.
Some would probably opine that we are better served if Congress is unable to do much. Others would opine that Congress does for its members’ future re-election much more than it does for we the people.
There; that is off my chest even though it is a bit exaggerated. It is easy to get frustrated with our political bodies. That seems to get worse the higher up the political ladder we go, likely by removing the person serving from his or her local scene and constituents more with each elevation. Local, county and even state government bodies are usually doing the right thing for the right reasons, at least as the majority see that right thing. That is sometimes difficult to comprehend but it is usually the way it works. There are circuitous steps that might make us observers dizzy, but those ofttimes have a purpose and are even driven by the age-old protocol that exists.
But, when we get to Washington, D.C. things seem to change. Up seems to be down. Black seems to be white. Right seems to be wrong and vice versa. Political poseurs appear to be everywhere we turn. There are even those times when members of our favored political party can be guilty of acting the part, or so we might think.
Senators can be much more affected than members of the House likely because they see themselves as so much more important given their comparatively sparse numbers, 100 to 435. Who wouldn’t get a bit of the big head? Senators also serve six-year terms while members of the House serve two-year terms thus being more closely observed and more often critiqued by the voters they represent.
But, how many of us take the time to reach out to our elected representatives? That outreach gets more difficult as the office is further removed from the locality or the district or the state.
Much of this detachment is the fault, at least in part, of the individual voter. If we do not participate in the process other than to mark our ballots, we do not take on the image that will stay with the elected official when the tough votes are called. In reality, the numbers of voters that take the time to correspond are tiny. The numbers of those that take the time to visit personally with the elected official are considerably less than that. In reality, those people we send to Washington can easily be swept up in the environment they find themselves in and, while not forgetting the voters, at least losing sight of the importance of certain things when the back-and-forth bargaining for votes takes place.
I had the opportunity yesterday to attend a local meeting called by my Assembly representative. I know him and see him fairly regularly in the district. That said, there were fewer than ten constituents, and most appeared to be fairly regular attendees. This was one of three such meetings for my representative that day. I also serve on our Village Board so I live in the midst of my constituents. They can reach out to me or I to them very easily. But, as we increase the degree of physical separation from our elected servants, we risk them losing track of what we’re thinking, and vice versa.
I would submit that we should first look in the mirror when we feel the need to blame someone in elected office, especially when that office is in Washington, D.C. or even wherever our respective state capitol is located. Second, I would suggest, we improve our chances of being listened to attentively if we are decent about the manner in which we address our target. If we are obviously angry and speaking in a loud voice, we have failed already at the task of communicating. If we grouse to ourselves and others about this or that in the political realm, we are not communicating to the person with whom we need to talk. If we only think about our government at certain times of the year, we are not doing anyone any favors.
Finally, if we are really bitten by this bug, then we ought to give serious consideration to becoming directly involved as a candidate or by becoming directly involved in the campaign effort of someone whose opinion on the issues we share or usually share.
If you think there is no hope for you becoming involved, just think about the current President of the United States of America. To my knowledge, he had never previously held political office. Each of us needs to be involved, directly or indirectly, in order to have the right to criticize, in order to be able to have input into the process. That begins at the lowest level of office you have in your world, unless, of course, your name is Donald Trump.
I had thought of personal involvement many times but, until the knock on my door by a prospective constituent, I’d have just gone on the way I had been going. Fortune smiled.
So, is it about us or is it about them? Yes.