A member of Congress has anonymously penned a short essay for the online news site Vox, titled “Confessions of a congressman: 9 secrets from the inside.”
In it, he (or she) describes his job as “frustrating, even disillusioning” and admits how the public now holds Congress in a lower esteem than “Nixon during Watergate, traffic jams, or the Canadian alt-rock band Nickleback.” So it seems our elected representatives have hit rock bottom.
Of the nine key points this mystery legislator brings up, the second is particularly noteworthy: “Congress listens best to money.” The fact that a House member needs to raise a million-dollar war chest every two years and “spends 50 percent to 75 percent of their term in office raising money” is one of the ways the influence industry uses to get its talons into the folks we elect to represent us. The Congressman goes on:
The mega-rich have been handed free loudspeakers. Their voices, even out-of-state voices, are drowning out the desperate whispers of ordinary Americans.
That needs to change, and the agent with the power to make that change is the American people. To make our democracy work better, it needs to be re-anchored in our founding principles by giving “We the People” a greater voice in government. The architects of our government – Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton – firmly believed that government should be guided by the common sense of the people, and this has never been more true than today.
VOP’s Citizen Cabinet initiative gives citizens a greater voice in government. It will give Congress advice from an informed public – from citizens who have heard all sides of an issue and come to well-considered conclusions that accurately reflect the will of the people. It will bring a new dynamic to the policymaking process, to counter the influence of money, and allow Congress to do what’s best for the country, rather than the special interests.
If members have a more clear understanding of the views of their constituents, they would have a greater sense of the potential costs in making commitments to special interests that might conflict with these views. It may in fact, deter some them from doing so and help restore public confidence in what was supposed to be “the People’s House.” Consequently, if members from both parties start spending more time listening to the people, the likelihood of Congress becoming tied up in gridlock and polarization, and ignoring the common good, diminishes greatly.
Members of Congress and the people they represent are frustrated and angry at the state of affairs in Washington. It’s time for those whispers of ordinary Americans to get louder – a lot louder – and that’s how the Citizen Cabinet can help us get our democracy back on track.
You can read the article here.