American politics has degenerated into a win or lose zero sum game much like a super bowl or other pro sporting event and indeed sports metaphors are often used in political discussions. This became increasingly evident during the past ten years and became especially acute in the Bush 43 administration with the country being divided into red and blue states and counties.
President Obama has, by all indications, tried to bring democrats and republicans together to resolve deep problems facing our nation as evidenced both in his speeches and his televised town hall with the GOP. This is all good but it is primarily a dialogue between the executive and legislative bodies. The meeting between Obama and the GOP even spawned the idea of UK style parliamentary exchanges between the president and congress. As much fun as these exchanges would be, we do not have a parliamentary form of government.
A major element missing in congress is that members just make speeches, often to near empty chambers simply to read their position into the record, there is no dialogue. In our current process one party puts forth a bill usually after it comes out of the various committees. Invariably the other party will oppose and the win-lose game begins. Missing is the process whereby each side seeks to understand the other. For example, the opposing side is never, as near as I can tell, asked or explains, specifically why, on an item by item basis, they are opposed and what solution they propose.
What is sorely needed is to restore honest, informed debate in congress. Honest in that members support or give priority to the views of their constituents instead of those of the party leadership. And, informed in that members do as much of their own work as possible in order to present their case and defend their position instead of relying on speeches and talking points prepared by their staffs.
We saw a glimmer of this healthy behavior in the health care summit on February 25, 2010. Let’s hope that it continues in other issues of great national importance. Open and bi-partisan dialog such as this should be the rule not the exception.
It was never the intention of the founders that members of congress consider the job as a career and receive a near 100% of their pay as a pension when they retire. Constitutionally, members of congress are to serve their constituents not those of special interest groups either from corporations or lobbyists and not party leadership.
Not to confound this out of control situation too much but we need to consider the issue of amendments, especially amendments, including earmarks, attached to a bill that are not germane to the bill. Often a bill is either defeated or passes on the basis of a non-germane amendment. This creates a great deal of squabbling in the political process not to mention confusion among the voters as to why, for example, a representative voted down a bill that by all indications was supported by their constituents.
Non-germane amendments to a bill should be eliminated.
Simply put, serving the American people should not be a win-lose game among political parties vying for popularity.
Feel free to send this in whole or part to your elected representatives.
That’s my view, what’s yours?