Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Trouble With Politics

The trouble with politics is that it’s full of politicians.

You see, the official job description of a member of the United States Congress is to represent the voters of their district. In a perfect world, every person in the country would be able to vote for all the things that come before Congress, and Congress would be unnecessary. This is, however, unfortunately not a perfect world. So instead, we elect representatives to go represent us and do our voting for us in Washington.

And yet they don’t represent us. Partisan politics has become so rigid and severe, and politicians have grown such a sense of entitlement that the opinions of their constituents really only matter to the extent that they desire to be re-elected. If a U.S. Representative believes that we need to stay in Iraq, by God, it doesn’t matter if every person in his district disagrees. He has to stick to his beliefs, man!

Bullshit. No matter how dead set against something any representative personally is, in all honesty it shouldn’t matter. If you are an elected representative of the people, your job is to vote the way the people would if they were present. Thomas Paine said so in Common Sense, which was the single most important rallying point in the events leading to the Revolution. That’s what the people wanted. That’s what the founding fathers wanted. That’s what this country is. It’s a representational democracy, and the job of those representatives is to represent their constituents.

Not only do our representatives fail to represent us, but partisan politics has hijacked the system to the extent that getting any real change done is next to impossible. How is it, pray tell, that partisan ‘whips,’ whose job is to make sure their colleagues vote along party lines, are an official United States federal government office? If that doesn’t convince you that the system is fundamentally flawed, I don’t know what would. George Washington, in his farewell address, warned the fledgling nation not to slip any farther into the bog of partisan politics that was already taking hold. The party system is silly, especially when it’s entirely dominated by just two parties. Washington knew that; he saw what was happening, and he warned against it. Did we listen? Obviously not.

If we want to come closer to the dream that is America, the dream set forth in the Constitution, one of the most important steps we can take is to put Congress in line. Reform the party system, either by abolishing political parties or by splitting the two dominant parties into several smaller ones. This way, ideas from all across the spectrum will be fully entertained, and maybe some change can occur. Also, the people need to start demanding that their representatives take the opinions of their constituents much deeper into consideration.

It’s supposed to be a government by the people, of the people, for the people, after all.


Rainier96 said...

Did I ever mention that you're a damn good writer? :D

And I agree with your post -- up to a point. If representatives followed their constituents' wishes, we might well have enough votes to override Bush's veto on the Iraq funding bill. I think Congressmen always ignore their constituents at their own peril.

But as you note, they have other fish to fry besides simply acting as proxies for their voters. That includes kowtowing to special interests who make big donations. And following the wishes of well organized single-interest groups who definitely will get their members out to vote at the next election.

But, on the other hand, I think a representative or senator at some point, on some issues, does have to follow his conscience and realize that he represents the good of the entire nation, and of generations to come -- not just what the public opinion polls say his voters think they want at the moment.

We have a very liberal initiative and referendum system in Washingoton -- I think you do in Colorado, too? -- and our form of direct democracy also can result in some godawful legislation. It's not just Congress that can act idiotic.

I think there's kind of a tension between the legislator's need to follow the voters' short-term wishes and his duty to decide what's really best for the entire country -- but in the long run, the voters' wishes have to win out. And I'm confident they ultimately will, even the way it is now. Also, I find that how I feel on the question you raise usually depends on how I feel about the political issue being considered by Congres, and how my representative plans to vote! :-)

Am I confusing enough for you? Hahaha.

PS -- Why, yes, I do believe that it's not butter. Funny you should mention it.

Zachary Freier said...

Indeed, there are cases when a representative must take the long-term good of the nation into account. That kind of throws a wrench in my whole contention here. :P

Rainier96 said...

Only a small wrench -- I think your basic point is good, especially considering some of the characters we have in Congress.

Don't let me discourage you with my comments -- I just like to argue. :o)

Zachary Freier said...

I firmly believe it's not butter. :P