We place our congressional representatives in a bad place when we deliver mixed messages. On the one hand, we tell them we want cuts across the board but we then follow that by whining when something we like is cut back or even eliminated.
I’m not necessarily saying that we send schizophrenics to Washington, D.C. We do send 535 people from all across this country. We send those people whom we think will do the best job. Some of us send people who promise to cut this and cut that. Some we send are sent because they promise to give us this, that or the other thing.
If you spend any time studying Congress as an institution, you see that compromise and/or embarrassing the other side is the name of most of the games played in our Congress. There are many issues that should have no left or right to them, but still, those issues are twisted and torn as the sides argue (they call it debating) between themselves over this nit or that nat.
Our Congress has perfected the debate/argument art form to the point where we find it difficult to follow the line of reasoning even after the whole process for a particular item has been concluded. There is also that little item of rules that have been developed and which have evolved over hundreds of thousands of hours of debate. Some of these seem archaic but they continue to be invoked from time to time.
I believe we’d find, after a very detailed study, that Congress has fully developed the ability to talk for hours and hours without achieving a thing other than to have embarrassed a colleague or struck a deal no one saw coming through the use of this archaic art form.
We do know that much of the arguing actually occurs between members of the same party rather than with members of one party arguing with members of the other party. The Republicans show that vividly when the 41 members of the more conservative group of Representatives stake out positions that rile the less conservative members of their caucus to the delight of the Democrats who sit back chortling to themselves over the spectacle.
We also know that some of what we witness is done even though those doing so know it has absolutely nothing to do with anything on the floor at the time. Why is that done? It is done to embarrass the other party usually during televised sessions where points can be scored with constituents at the expense of the other party. A lot of time is spent in such theatre.
There is enough of this to go around for both parties but we who have favorites tend to see only the flaws and faults of the opposition party members. We, again, seem to be the real problem. We do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result than we got the last time. Or, we watch angrily as the other side uses our own tactics against us.
Some days we seem to lose all touch with reality as we watch the “do-nothing” Congress as we’ve become accustomed to calling those sessions. You and I have these problems because we are not sitting in Congress. We sit in the real world where we talk to people and understand each other because we do not engage in the high theater known as “national politics”. We actually meet with those we’ve sent to Washington when they are in their home districts and we think they are great, they aren’t part of the problem…but that changes when they get off the airplane in the District of Columbia.
There are certain things that simply aren’t likely to change in that rarified atmosphere we call the District of Columbia. Even if you or I were sent to Washington through election to an office situated there, we would gradually change without even really understanding that we had changed. That, I believe speaks well for the idea of term limits. Term limits are the tool that might have an effect on the change in behavior we see over time from those we send to the District for years. If we invoked that solution, we’d have to weigh the loss in institutional memory that sometimes plays very heavily in the outcomes of debates.
There is no simple solution to the issue that the District of Columbia effects change upon its occupants. It happens in spite of people really trying to remain just as they were before going to our nation’s Capitol to do the work we ask of them. Oh sure, there are some who love the affectation they adapt like chameleons as they set foot on that ground and breath the rarified atmosphere. Those are the people we may need to give thought to bringing home after a time and replacing them with someone who has yet to catch D.C. influenza.
We complain about “do nothing” Congresses and yet by sending the same people term-after-term, we are guilty of creating that of which we complain. Go figure!