As of this writing the “do nothing Congress” is still negotiating to avoid taking the country over the “fiscal cliff”. It is 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on New Years Eve. They should all be embarrassed. Their behavior defines dysfunctional. This is not what the framers of our Constitution envisioned. This is not how it is supposed to work. Yet, this is how it has been for four years. The President proposes and the Republican dominated Congress obstructs any constructive action. This Congress has been the least productive of any in history. They have far surpassed the famous “do nothing Congress” in doing nothing. But now their failure is about to cost us all dearly.
The many episodes of obstructionism that we have experienced over the past legislative session raises many issues both about our system and our willingness to become truly engaged. If we do nothing, the next session of Congress will be no different than the last. Can the nation afford that? Can we as individuals afford that? If Congress and the President remain in a constant state of war, we the people become the victims. It impacts on every facet of our lives and our nation’s ability to deal productively with our international partners and our opponents. Their has always been a constructive tension between these two branches of government. It is inherent in the concept of “checks and balances”. But in the end, that tension is supposed to create optimal solutions, not worsen and aggravate existing problems.
One of the structural realities that has created the existing situation is that 75% of current Congressional members are representing “safe districts”. As a result of recent Gerrymandering, Congressional districts have been redrawn by those in power to protect their Party seats. Since 32 of the State Houses are occupied by conservative Republicans, the districts currently favor conservative, often Tea Party, Congressman. The very Congressional members who lead in obstructionist behavior. Some States, such as California, have changed the law requiring that a non partisan commission redraw Congressional districts, taking the politics out of it. If more States took this action, Congress would look entirely different. Demanding this change requires that we become engaged. Jefferson said that democracy requires an informed population. We are incredibly ill informed and disengaged. Until that changes, we will see more of what we have seen over the past four years.
Platitudes are great. Our politicians spew them all the time. They want you to believe that they really care about serving your interests and serving the public good. What they really care about is staying in office. The only way they will serve the public good and not their own narrow needs is to hear loud and clear that their reelection is in jeopardy if they ignore the demands of those they represent. Right now the lobbyists have the ear of our representatives. It is time they began to listen to us.
What is happening today is unconscionable. They are listening to Grover Norquist and other special interests. The system will remain broken as long as we remain disengaged. If we want it fixed, we have to demand that we are listened to. It is really up to us. It is broken and we need to fix it.