Confession Of A Congreesman [Pic]

Submitted by: handimanner 3 years ago in

I am a member of Congress. I"m not going to tell you from where, or from which party. But I serve, and I am honored to serve. I serve with good people (and some less good ones), and we try to do our best.

It"s a frustrating, even disillusioning job. The public pretty much hates us. Congress polls lower than Richard Nixon during Watergate, traffic jams, or the Canadian alt-rock band Nickelback. So the public knows something is wrong. But they often don"t know exactly what is wrong. And sometimes, the things they think will fix Congress like making us come home every weekend actually break it further.

So here are some things I wish the voters knew about the people elected to represent them.

1) Congress is not out of touch with folks back home

Congress is only a part-time job in Washington, DC. An hour after the last vote, almost everyone is on the airplane home. Congress votes fewer than 100 days a year, spending the rest of the time back home where we pander to their constituents" short-term interests, not the long-term good of the nation. Anyone who is closer to your district than you are will replace you. Incumbents stick to their districts like Velcro.

2) Congress listens best to money

It is more lucrativeto pander to big donors than to regular citizens. Campaigns are so expensive that the average member needs a million-dollar war chest every two years and spends 50 percent to 75 percent of their term in office raising money. Think about that. You"re paying us to do a job, and we"re spending that time you"re paying us asking rich people and corporations to give us money so we can run ads convincing you to keep paying us to do this job. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled thatmoney is speech andcorporations are people, the mega-rich have been handed free loudspeakers. Their voices, even out-of-state voices, are drowning out the desperate whispers of ordinary Americans.

3) Almost everyone in Congress loves gerrymandering

Without crooked districts, most members of Congress probably would not have been elected. According to theCook Political Report, only about 90 of the 435 seats in Congress are "swing" seats that can be won by either political party. In other words, 345 seats are safe Republican or Democratic seats. Both parties like it that way. So that"s what elections are like today: rather than the voters choosing us, we choose the voters. The only threat a lot of us incumbents face is in the primaries, where someone even more extreme than we are can turn out the vote among an even smaller, more self-selected group of partisans.

4) You have no secret ballot anymore

The only way political parties can successfully gerrymander is by knowing how you vote. Both parties have destroyed your privacy at the polling booth.Thanks to election rolls, we don"t know exactly whom you voted for, but we get pretty damn close. We know exactly which primaries and general elections you have voted in, and since there are so few realistic candidates in most elections, down or up ballot, we might as well know exactly who you voted for. Marry that data with magazine subscriptions, the kind of car you drive, and all sorts of other easily available consumer information that we"ve figured out how to use to map your political preferences, and we can gerrymander and target subdivisions, houses even double beds. Republicans want the male vote; Democrats the female vote.

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

5) We don"t have a Congress but a parliament

Over the last several decades, party loyalty has increased to near-unanimity. If a member of Congress doesn"t vote with his or her party 99 percent of the time, he"s considered unreliable and excluded from party decision-making. Gone are the days when you were expected to vote your conscience and your district, the true job of a congressperson. Parliaments only work because they have a prime minister who can get things done. We have a parliament without any ability to take executive action. We should not be surprised we are gridlocked.

6) Congressional committees are a waste of time

With parliamentary voting, control is centralized in each party"s leadership. Almost every major decision is made by the Speaker or Minority Leader, not by committees. They feel it is vital to party success to have a national "message" that is usually poll-driven, not substantive. So why develop any expertise as a committee member if your decisions will only be overridden by party leadership? Why try to get on a good committee if you have already ceded authority to your unelected, unaccountable party leaders? The result is members routinely don"t show up at committee hearings, or if they do show up, it"s only to ask a few questions and leave. A lot of members fight for committees that will help them raise money or get a sweet lobbying job later (more on that in a minute). The result is that the engine for informed lawmaking is broken.

7) Congress is a stepping-stone to lobbying

Congress is no longer a destination but a journey. Committee assignments are mainly valuable as part of the interview process for a far more lucrative job as a K Street lobbyist. You are considered nave if you are not currying favor with wealthy corporations under your jurisdiction. It"s become routine to see members of Congress drop their seat in Congress like a hot rock when a particularly lush vacancy opens up. The revolving door is spinning every day. Special interests deplete Congress of its best talent.

8)The best people don"t run for Congress

Smart people figured this out years ago and decided to pursue careers other than running for Congress. The thought of living in a fishbowl with 30-second attack ads has made Congress repulsive to spouses and families. The idea of spending half your life begging rich people you don"t know for money turns off all reasonable, self-respecting people. That, plus lower pay than a first-year graduate of a top law school, means that Congress, like most federal agencies, is not attracting the best and the brightest in America.

9) Congress is still necessary to save America, and cynics aren"t helping

Discouragement is for wimps. We aren"t going to change the Constitution, so we need to make the system we have work. We are still, despite our shortcomings, the most successful experiment in self-government in history. Our greatest strength is our ability to bounce back from mistakes like we are making today. Get over your nostalgia: Congress has never been more than a sausage factory. The point here isn"t to make us something we"re not. The point is to get us to make sausage again. But for that to happen, the people have to rise up and demand better.

Less popular than Nickelback
Credits: source
There are 9 comments:
Male 1,421
Two party system at it`s finest. It`s much easier to divide power between two parties than it is between three or more..

Living in a country that is seeing shift in power between 3-5 parties every other parliament election cycle is much easier. At the moment the right conservative party is going out, people got frustrated seeing the top bracket receiving weird benefits that may sound familiar:

tax cuts, campaign donations almost going secret again, the US lobbying model creeping in, NATO talks, TTIP, PM going for cushy job in EU and EU parliament winner getting the MP place instead, revolving door turning in unprecedented rate, privatization, austerity measures, wages stagnating, wellfare is 15 years behind inflation and we received official EU warning to get it back to EU median of face consequences (it used be the thing we were proud of)

People want the center/left coalition back..
Male 837

Increasing their term to four years would, in my mind, have a net loss to the American People attached to it.

By having two year terms, we (theoretically) can react to House Representatives who betray their campaign promises. The House` values shift more easily with the People`s values.

The solution is more informed voters.

Personally, I think we should cap members at 12 years (combined House and Senate) of service.
Male 352
"We are still, despite our shortcomings, the most successful experiment in self-government in history. " This is highly debatable.
Male 15,831
@kvetcher I think you`re onto something. Then there might at least be a few months when they`re not out whoring themselves for campaign cash and extorting bribes.
Male 213
Is it worth thinking about increasing the Congressional term to four years, which is about the norm elsewhere? You could perhaps hold it in the middle even year of a Presidential term. I think it might stop some of the abuses listed above. Friendly suggestion.
Male 15,831
@Mikeoxsbiggg [quote]Lobbying should be banned. [/quote]
You would first have to repeal the 1st amendment. "Congress shall make no law...abridging...the right of the petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Congress wouldn`t be selling favors if they didn`t have favors to sell. They wouldn`t have favors to sell if the constitution were still valid.
Male 2,109
That was a depressing, but fantastic, read. Thanks for the post!
Male 1,497
Corporations having a voice is the most insane and dangerous policy I`ve ever heard of. If they should have a voice it should be a whisper under the chorus of Citizens. Lobbying should be banned. All it is is fancy bribery.
Male 2,166
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