Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Consolidating a grip on power

This sentiment is a kind of undertone in some of the discussions of "what next now that we have majorities in house and senate" that boil along in every forum: Democrats won't do well if we don't keep or increase our margins of control.

I am not a Democrat and certainly not a Republican, I am a citizen, a taxpayer and a voter. The labels mean little to me if the policies are barely distinquishable. The Republicans had to answer "how do we get a lock on political power" after the Reaganization of political thought culminated in the Contract on America and the mid 90's Republican capture of majorities in both houses. Their answer included hitching incumbency to the wealth of industries and conservative churches via K Street and other unhealthy and anti-democracy tactics These tactics let lobbying budgets blind legislators to the real needs in our country and eventually made some of them blind even to the difference between a bribe and a legal favor...anything goes as long as money goes into the campaign fund.

Republicans outspent their opponents in most of the recent election's campaigns, including the upsets, of which there were quite a few. That would seem to argue that there is a limit to the effects of money on a campaign: If you really are screwing your country or even just ignoring your constituents then no, you can't buy yourself another term for any amount of cash.

If that is the shift that has just hit the fans, if that is how bad things got and how badly the average voter wanted to fix them, then the climate has changed. Climate change is not readily detected by Republicans, if their speeches on the matter mean anything. Thus, there may have arisen here a great opportunity/challenge to the newly elected and possibly more ethical congress: Shouldn't they look into consolidating their win not by sewing up deals with power hungry and favor seeking donors but rather by making the neglected two-way channel with their constituents the loudest and most transparent stream of influence in Washington? Shouldn't they now on a regular basis canvas voters to see whats hurting them and what they hope for? Shouldn't these legislators each frequently and honestly update us on just which laws they study and debate over and of all the laws in play, what their position will be in voting? I think that sort of communication would cement a legislator with his or her constituents and move the debates about what our priorties and means of achieving them should be back where it belongs: among the constituents. We aren't as stupid as the campaign budgets would have you believe and our voting just proved it.

But until this happy state comes about, just watch their votes, keep an eye on when new lobbying and donated money comes to your senator or representative and see if they will respond to your letter or phone call about why they accepted the cash. They may be a little more attentive to voter's letters than they were back in 2004. If you get a non-answer, consider youself as having a non-representative in congress and start looking for a replacement.

The important power that has been retaken lately and which needs to be firmed up is that of the voter over the congress.

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