Next year will be another big year for events of this kind as one third of the US Senate and the entire House of Representatives stands for election plus thousands of state and local elections will also be held. Only the President is not running since the current officeholder will be in mid-term, but you can bet he will be actively involved in trying to elect more liberals who support his cause.
The candidates will promise, they will talk about democracy and the things that need to be done and then, once the election is over, they will go to Washington to be commandeered by the leadership of the respective parties to tow the line in order to maintain or receive plum committee assignments so that they can "bring home the bacon" for their constituents thereby insuring their continued election while also giving them cover to vote in ways their electors never envisioned. And as for the newly elected members, they will come under excruciating pressure to answer to the will of the leadership, not the will of the people. Thankfully, more and more of our "newbies" seem ready to do just the opposite.
Some of you might say I'm cynical but actually I'm just being realistic. The system is so entrenched and so slanted toward itself and the Washington establishment that without some major changes things won't get better. Just look at what the Senate has tried to do to Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul? They've been called "whackos" for trying to do those things that got them elected. And how about the House? John Boehner could have never become Speaker without the new Tea Party caucus yet he has tried with all his power of office to neuter the movement.
Finally, at least some of America gets it and understands what is going on. Our system in Washington is broken and it will never be mended by the elected representatives who just become part of the DC establishment. They have to much too gain from the money and power that comes with being a good "soldier" and following their orders while they build seniority. And therein lies the problem.
The House and the Senate were never designed by the Founders to rubberstamp leadership. Let's look at the Senate first since nowhere is it more true than in this formerly asteemed body which was designed to be the great debating society. It was never meant to be a place where bills were jammed through in the wee hours of the morning much to the dismay of a minority opinion. It was designed to slow things down, to make sure that bills were fully read and vetted, for compromise to be made, and for the best possible options to survive. This means that many pieces of legislation would never weather the storm and would be cast out, as it should be more often than not, for laws were supposed to be passed to benefit the citizenry as a whole not an individual or favored group. And for it to work well, that citizenry has to be informed and armed with the truth.
The Senate was designed to be the representative body of the state governments. Originally elected by the state legislators, it was establishedf to insure that the needs and concerns of the operating states were addressed, thereby insuring that they had a strong voice in decision-making in Washington. This is what the concept of states rights was all about. The seventeenth amendment changed all of that with the popular election of Senators. It turned it into a club of one hundred who, over time, see themselves often as elitists, far removed from their constituents and just as far removed in outlook. Just think if John McCain's role was to represent and be accountable to state government in Phoenix instead of going off on tangents unrelated to the wishes of his home state? What a different world it would be. But since the repeal of an amendment is next to impossible, a return to original intent is highly unlikely.
The House is an entirely different animal. Elected from four hundred and thirty-five smaller districts, it is designed to be closer to the people and therefore much more in tune with the will of the people. That's why you see so much more diversity. Generally rural districts nationwide are similar in viewpoint and large urban areas are in the opposite camp. The in-between, or more suburban areas, are usually a blend of the two and that's why those communities have so much sway in election outcomes for the House as a whole.
What kills the concept of the House as the people's body is the leadership and seniority. The longer a representative stays in office, the more power he or she gains and, since power is likely to corrupt, the more in tune with the big money of K-Street and Wall Street they become. You see they want to be reelected to attain that goal and this requires support of their leadership to attract the funding they need. It becomes a full time job in itself: fundraising. The people be damned.
So what can we do? Well, I think the only feasible answer is term limits. It would certainly tone down the club atmosphere of the Senate, force Congressmen up for election every two years to stay totally in tune with their home folks and even more, it would mandate a frequent change of leaders in both bodies. I would recommend four terms for the House and two terms for the Senate, although that is certainly not a magic number. But the point is to continually require new blood, ideas from people still better in tune with things at home than in Washington. And this would be most readily apparent in the leadership which is clearly responds more to party establishments and lobbyists than it does to the people who put them there. Just think about it. If elected leaders found it more important to be true to their accountability to their constituents with outside interests no longer having such influence, wouldn't it be better?
I know there are those who say that we need leaders in office for a longer period of time so that they can learn the system and work more effectively. Quite candidly, I think that is hogwash. After all, it seems to me that the new folks with new ideas catch on quickly and besides, there is one other thing we could do to change that. Limit congressional sessions to a maximum of six months a year, thereby requiring all to be citizen legislators. If you look at the amount of actual session time now, if you take out the short weeks, vacations, general time not in session, etc. you can see that this would be feasible.
In a shortened session you could take the first half to complete legislation from the previous term and then take up new business. It would limit business to those things really needed and it would also slow things down and, most importantly, give elected officials no option but to clearly be in front of the general public back home more often. Nothing is more enlightening that walking through your home town grocery store and seeing how your constituents are surviving in the real world, not the world of Washington. Just for starters, I'll bet the formulas used to determine the consumer price index and the unemployment rate would be dramatically changed as a result. Their benefit plan and exceptions to laws that the rest of us must follow would also be dramatically impacted. They would have to look at themselves as citizens first, not princes and princesses of the ruling class.
You may not agree but I offer these points for general discourse and consideration. Think about it, for something must change. Our present system is clearly not working. If it doesn't change drastically it is dead.
Have a great weekend and God bless. Pray for common sense to prevail with our elected representatives and may they all be infected by the Wisdom of Godf.