In looking over the website of my U.S. representative and two U.S. Senators, I notice that each site has a link to click entitled “Issues.” If the link is clicked we are presented with some sort of brief statement – or even a single paragraph – that offers what seems obviously to be phrasing authored by a staff spin doctor. In some cases with a specific issue I see a series of PR announcements touting a recent activity or accomplishment that apparently reflects the representative’s hope to pad the resume for the next election.
Accurate or not, it is not unreasonable to assume that we in this country seem to have an unconscious mindset that our U.S. Representatives are elected to go back to Washington and work mostly on every single national issue that has captured the short attention spans of the voting public. These would be all issues in general and the most sensational issues in particular that drive national attention.
I would be the last person to imply that such issues are not important.
I would also be the last person to make the logical extension that our Congress, composed of 100 senators and 435 representatives is intended to be composed of 535 individual self-important prima-donna politicians expending time and money trying to brush-fire manage every issue that crops up.
In truth, dealing with issues as they crop up is the justifiable expected tasking of congressional committees.
Being part of a team committed to solving problems is not helped if you have 535 individuals posturing as the player who scores the most points with or without the contributions of the entire team toward the anticipated victory.
Our recent partisan history reveals that the “high scorers” on the supposed team are mostly typified by committee chairpersons who waste precious time and money on “investigations” that have been driven by party partisanship; that have thereby been blown entirely out of proportion; and which for the most part tend to come to results of little substance.
The Benghazi committee stands out as an example of this regardless of which party one agrees with or supports.
Another example is the ongoing hypocrisy of the chairman of the Oversight committee who has refused to investigate the scandals connected to national security and the behavior of supposedly trustworthy citizens who were appointed to a position of trust. Why would he refuse when he was hell-bent on investigation the Democratic presidential nominee about issues less significant that the current “Russian” scandal?
One would be hard-pressed to convince me that such an individual was elected by his Utah congressional district to make his party priorities more important that the needs of his constituency.
I bring this up because candidates and incumbents often speak about issues in dramatic ways that suggest that they are in fact charge-leaders (“leading the charge”) to dramatic solutions concerning the entire spectrum of issues facing the nation.
Committees are needful and useful, something we ought to recognize as a wise principle based on organizing priorities and tasking. However, governing by committee as the primary way to positive achievement is unwieldy. Any bean-counting efficiency expert will tell you the same thing.
Which then brings me to my attitude about the job of being a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
His/her job is to be justifiably employed on a daily basis FIRST and FOREMOST as the representative of the district. It is not the representative’s job to be running for re-election from the first day of his\her elected term. If they do that, they might easily find themselves tempted to work only on issues that pad their resume. That kind of a worker is not trustworthy. The priorities are not necessarily linked to the highest good of the constituency.
Such an attitude then ought to be that it is not his/her job to check with the party every morning to see if there are party priorities on behalf of which he/she must immediately act and expend time and resources. Party priorities do not supersede issues around national well-being that need immediate action or moments of national crisis that demand immediate responsibly patriotic action. Party ideological priorities beyond that priority are only party priorities and unworthy of a position at the top of the list of an elected official’s loyalty to the country.
In my case, our district representative was part and parcel of the leadership that subordinated each of their constituencies to the fantastic priority of repealing the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (which was mislabeled by party partisans as so-called “Obamacare.”.)
What does that really mean? Since 2010, my representative – who is part of the party leadership and considered the highest ranking female party member in the House – helped set in motion over 60 attempts to repeal the ACA between 2010 and 2016. That’s an average of over ten times per year.
What did her constituency need from her that was subordinated to the party priority of repealing the ACA more than ten times each year? What did we miss out on? Had she asked us if we wanted her to waste government time and money on a single issue ten times per year, would we have told her to go ahead?
I seriously doubt that.
It is true that party teamwork based on genuine loyalty to the good of the country – and not to the ideology of the party – can be a good thing. That is the point of committees in Congress who study out the important stuff and make recommendations to the larger bodies for further action.
Bottom line is that our elected representative should be first a civically responsible member of a Congressional team of individuals who have been trusted by their constituencies to do right by their districts or their states. Other than for political campaign purposes there is no other reason to belong to a political party dominated by an ideology – particularly when the ideology is backed up by large amounts of lobbyist funding (need I say to BOTH major parties?).
Those who believe representatives should be negotiators, compromisers and deal-makers in order to reach consensus and make wise decisions are correct in those assumptive beliefs – so long as such beliefs do not demand the unwarranted notion that negotiators, compromisers and deal-makers who do such things are trying to use those tools to further partisan politics.
Having said all that, I would want voters in our district to think of our representative as having us in mind at all times; as performing duties which reflect the very civic reasons and expectations upon which he/she was voted into office.
Redefining that trust is of course the purpose and intent of propaganda broadcasting and partisan media activity that masquerades biased fake news as the truth.
Representatives who are trusted by constituencies have no business letting partisan broadcasters and talk-show stampeders – all of whom are in it more for the money than for the common good – be the educators of those whose votes they need.
Furthermore, as often comes to pass when we listen to sound bites, campaign slogans, talking points and publicity releases, we do not want to be addressed by someone who seems to believe that constituencies are dumber than the representative – and therefore need to be led, mentored and educated like sheep.