Let me tell you just how bad it is. More Americans approve of polygamy than they do of Congress in Washington. At the height of the Gulf oil spill, BP had a shockingly low 16% approval rating. And would you believe that 11% of those surveyed are OK with America becoming Communist? Just about every low-life trend or person you can think of does better than the folks you and I send up to Washington.
Apparently public cynicism is falling on deaf ears, as the "Republic-can’ts" and the "Demo-don’ts " both share the blame game. There are tough decisions to be made regarding the new healthcare proposals, other entitlement programs and raising revenues that require urgent action, but the party bickering just doesn’t slow down. So it comes as no surprise to most of us that the favorable support of Congress continues to plummet.
How can Congress be more responsive to constituents back home? Is it necessary for members of Congress to spend most of their time in Washington? In 2017, why can’t lawmakers use the new technology of telecommunications to create a “virtual Congress?”
During the time following the American Revolution, it was necessary for the original Congress to meet under one roof. But why should a twenty-first century legislature be constrained by eighteenth-century technology? Why should Congressional members have to rush away from their constituencies back to Washington just to cast votes? They belong in close proximity with those who elected them, not at high-priced cocktail parties in Washington at the behest of rich special interest promoters.
If millions of Americans can telecommute, why can’t members of Congress attend committee meetings by video conference? If I can regularly Skype or Facetime with my grandkids, why can’t my congressman add a big screen to his or her office, tune in meetings, the go back to handling problems of constituents right out of the home district?
As it is now, we might catch a glimpse of our members of Congress when they are interviewed on television. How refreshing it would be to see your congressman at various school events or run into him or her at your local coffee shop. Back in their districts most of the time, these congressmen will be surrounded by skeptical constituents, rather than fawning supplicants. And they’ll continually have to justify any political decision they make that’s contrary to the will of the voters.
There are a number of other proposals out there to make Congress more responsive to those who elected them. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, during his short run for president, suggested a part-time Congress. Term limits is an idea that continues to have high favorable support. Others are saying that congressional districts have grown too large, and more members of Congress should be added. All these ideas have merit.
But there’s nothing more important than reestablishing a closer relationship between the congressman and the people he or she represents. In the old days, it was called “retail politics.” A handshake and face-to-face interaction. Let a voter blow off steam or bring up what could be a good idea.
There certainly is no patent for good “common sense” emanating from Washington these days. So come back home, Congressman, and listen and learn from those who elected you. And maybe, just maybe, your popularity will rise above being a polygamist.
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.